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John Block Reports from Washington

RSS By: John Block,

John Block has dedicated his professional career to the fields of agriculture, food and health.

House Passes Farm Program

Jul 17, 2013

As I said last week, "I’m headed to the farm in Illinois." I went to the farm twice in May, hoping we could get some corn planted. It rained both times. However, somehow, in between rains, we got it in the ground.

Last week as I surveyed the fields, I was pleasantly surprised. Population is good. Pollination is beginning. We could come out of this very difficult year with a reasonably good crop. That’s amazing, since we had 28 inches of rain in the first 6 months of this year. Our normal annual rainfall is 36 inches.

Even if you can control everything else, you can’t control the weather.

While in Illinois checking the crops and hogs, the House passed a farm bill. I was surprised at how quick they did it. The unexpected failure of their attempt to pass the bill 3 weeks ago was very embarrassing.

To get it passed, they split the food stamp (nutrition) portion of the bill off and passed the farm portion without one Democratic vote. Nancy Pelosi was furious. Others complained that the House was "providing hundreds of billions of dollars in ag subsidies but not a dime for the hungry." Even the major farm organizations were not happy. They did not want to split the bill that for 50 years had always combined the food programs with the farm supports.

Where do we go from here? If we ever get legislation, the House and Senate have to sit down and hammer out a bill. Senator Dick Durbin said, on Face the Nation Sunday, that "The House passed bill is dead without a nutrition title." The whole process is crazy.

Let’s step back and talk about what the real outcome may be.

First, farm supports, including crop insurance, will survive. Second, we are not going to deny food for the hungry. Food stamps will be funded.

How the Congress gets this done is another question. They may find a way to reunite the food and farm programs. If all fails, they could just extend the current farm program for another year. We’re operating under an extension now.

I am probably in the minority, but I think all of this chaos is good. It will force a serious debate about the structure and size of the food and farm programs.

Stay tuned.

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