OTHER VOICES

A policy we can stomach

Posted July 15, 2012, at 5:04 p.m.

Everybody eats, so all of us will be affected by the $500 billion farm legislation making its way through Congress.

The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, commonly known as the Farm Bill, will reverberate through our region for the next five years provided lawmakers meet a Sept. 30 deadline for final approval. The version approved recently by the Senate makes some key reforms but falls short in other areas. The House takes up the legislation next.

On the plus side, the Senate bill would eliminate direct payments to farmers, cutting about $9.3 billion in spending over five years. Instead, the government would subsidize insurance programs to cover losses from weather or market swings.

Farmers long have advocated for policies that will allow them to make a living from the marketplace, not from government programs. This is a step in that direction.

In the current economy, where commodity prices are strong and farm income is up, the policy shift will be simple enough to put in place. But farm prices change like the weather in the Midwest. Five years from now, we won’t be a bit surprised to hear policymakers call for reforms and improvements to this policy to protect family farms. …

The vast majority of the sweeping agriculture legislation — 80 percent — is dedicated to nutrition programs. About 46 million people now receive food assistance, or 1 in every 7 Americans. This is up from about 28 million in 2008.

The recession clearly has caused more people to need help. However, the food program is rapidly approaching the point of being unsustainable. Examples of waste and fraud are numerous. …

Congress owes us a policy we can stomach.

St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press (July 7)

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