Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I suppose I have to...  

Post about the farm bill. Like you - and I think every other observer - I have been reduced to an open-mouthed bystander by the actions in Washington. Strangely enough, I am cheering on the unorthodox thinking and actions of the hard right of the GOP to see if we can really, really wreck this train for good.

My key conclusions so far:
  • The best summary of the flaming wreck was in Politico, IMHO.
Looking back, it was a remarkable moment not just for the tone-deaf judgment of the House GOP leadership but because the Republicans voting “no” had gotten their way so often in the debate.
A POLITICO review of the voting tallies shows that most of the 62 had voted successfully for $20.5 billion in food stamp savings, capped total federal dollars for the farm safety net, imposed new payment limits on what large farms can get and blocked a new milk supply program favored by most dairy co-ops.
They failed to end the sugar program. And oddly enough, many lined up — without luck — against doing something to battle the collapse of the nation’s bee population.
But on two reform issues — crop insurance and international food aid — a solid majority of this same Republican bloc sent a strong message of support that amounted to a real breakthrough politically. If a farm bill is to be resurrected, these two bipartisan votes are fertile ground for compromise. [More]
  • The decision by Sen Reid to play hardball ups the ante further. 
The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives needs to solve its farm bill impasse by enacting the Senate's bipartisan bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Monday, warning that the Democrat-run Senate will not extend current law again.
The House defeated its own farm bill last week - the first time such a bill has failed in a House vote - and analysts have said a short-term extension of the 2008 farm law would be the easiest solution.
On the Senate floor, Reid said "the Senate will not pass another temporary farm bill extension." [More]
  • What was Cantor thinking?? Furthermore, who is Paul Ryan kidding?? If you vote "No", YOU are the reason it failed.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., didn’t vote for the farm bill last Thursday, but he put the bill’s defeat squarely in the hands of the Democrats.
“Personally…I didn’t support the farm bill,” he told Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on Monday.
“Do you agree something dysfunctional happened?” Brzezinski asked, referring to the bill’s 234 to 195 defeat.
“The Democrats promised 40 votes, and they didn’t deliver the votes they had promised,” Ryan responded. “Our leaders brought the bill to the floor based upon the commitment that Democrats from the agricultural districts made, and then during consideration of this bill on the floor they reneged on the commitment of the 40 votes they promised and the bill went down.” [More]
This isn't going to sell. Farmers can actually count, you know. The 16 votes the Dems failed to deliver would not have made up for the "R" defections under our current math rules.
  • I have seen multiple calls to split food stamps and farm stuff, and the odds of that happening may not be zero anymore. If it happens it will end farm programs as we know them.
  • There was a surprisingly close vote on amending the sugar program, another thing I never thought I'd live to see. That program could be in big trouble.
  • The dairy industry is in deep turmoil with no way out I can see. With E-85 getting a breath of life from the Supremes and dairy reform's starring role in the House failure, passing much of anything new looks extremely unlikely.
  • On the bright side, hemp finally got some love from Congress.
Miraculously, despite last-minute lobbying against it from the DEA, the amendment passed by a vote of 225-200. In light of repeated failures of bills that would legalize industrial hemp production more broadly–one fizzled as an amendment to the Senate farm bill, and a House proposal has been moldering in a subcommittee since April–that’s the most significant sign of progress on the federal level that hemp advocates have ever seen.
It might have a second life sooner than the rest of the House Farm Bill. Polis wants to take that sign of goodwill and tack it on to “any other bill that is germane,” such as Agriculture appropriations, or on its own as a standalone bill. “When you have a Congressional majority on any issue, there are a variety of ways you can move forward,” Polis says. [More]
  • For my industry - media - the outcome could not be better. We'll be nattering on about this nonsense ad nauseum. And despite the farm bill lobbying costs exceeding health reform, we've just signed up for another treatment.
Why? In its recent report on lobbying leading up the the 2008 farm bill, Food & Water Watch sketches out an answer: Agribusiness interests have essentially bought the farm bill legislative process. FWW found that the 2008 bill drew $173.5 million worth of lobbying—topped only by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill's $250 million in terms of lobbying frenzy over major legislation. Even the 2010 healthcare-reform act, which drew the ardent interest of the pharmaceutical, health-insurance, and hospital industries, only inspired $120 million in lobbying cash. [More]
That was the 2008 bill, folks, so I'm confident with a little more incompetence this farm bill can overtake Dodd-Frank for the all-time title.

Talking about the future, I am baffled. But because it will affect my local competitors just as much as me, I won't lose much sleep. We sometimes forget that is our biggest challenge, and one Washington can't help with.

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