Vote on Farm Bill

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News July 26.

What, precisely, John Boehner is thinking, we don't know. But we do have a message from the heartland for the Republican speaker of the House: His actions, which are delaying the House's consideration of the farm bill, are an example of why Americans want to throw both parties out of power.

The House Agriculture Committee passed a bipartisan renewal of the farm bill earlier this month. But Boehner has not scheduled a time to bring the bill before the full House. The measure remains in limbo.

The Washington Post reports that the speaker doesn't want to slate a vote because the bill may create Election Day problems for some members of the GOP-led House. Some rural legislators don't want to be seen as curtailing subsidies to farmers, which the bill calls for; other lawmakers don't want to vote before November on a major spending bill.

Never mind that some Republicans previously tried to limit subsidies in general, including to farmers. Or that the bill actually cuts $35 billion in spending, including direct payments to agricultural producers. Or that the Senate already has passed its Farm Bill, which is not sharply different from the House version.

The speaker is playing politics. Shame on him, especially since he recently acknowledged that many farmers and ranchers are currently gutting it out because of merciless droughts. While this piece of legislation can't get them out of their bind tomorrow, they need to get some idea about what Washington has in store for their future.

For example, what guidance will it give them about better managing their lands or getting crop insurance? Unfortunately, they will be flying blind until the full House votes on the bill.

This legislation is not perfect. It cuts food stamp spending more than the Senate's plan. The House should amend the bill to get more savings from subsidies and less from food stamps.

But the measure that the committee produced is not wildly divisive, as many bills on Capitol Hill are these days. It tracks the Senate bill in terms of curtailing direct payments, consolidating programs and relieving farmers of some regulations. Working out a compromise between the two chambers shouldn't be impossible. In fact, some members of each chamber already are talking.

So, Mr. Speaker, stop the wait.

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