We’ve been griping about the lack of a farm bill for sometime now.
Last year, the Senate passed the bill, but the House couldn’t get its act together long enough to do the same. In fact, the House leadership never even called the bill.
But, yesterday, after months of waiting for round two of the farm bill, we finally hit pay dirt. Well, maybe not pay dirt, but at least we started digging.
Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee marked up and passed their version of the farm bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee did the same thing the day before.
But there’s still a long way to go. The approval of the farm bill in Senate and House Agriculture Committees is just the first step in the process. Despite the fact that the bill has made it through both committees, both the Senate and House must call, vote on and pass their respective bills before the two can be combined and sent to President Obama to be signed into law.
So, while this is a step in the right direction, it is just a step. And one step isn’t going to carry us across the finish line in this farm bill marathon. There’s still a long way to go on issues like dairy policy reforms, restoring cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and interstate commerce — all issues that promise healthy and hefty debate when the bill is called to the floor.
And there’s nothing wrong with healthy — or hefty — debate. That is as long as it means there’s progress and passing of the farm bill. After all, the farm bill isn’t only important to farmers — it’s also important to consumers.
Farming is a risky business and the provisions in the farm bill, like disaster programs and crop insurance, allow farmers to more carefully plan for the years to come. And when farmers can plan, consumers can plan on a more stable food supply. In other words, having a farm bill in place to help protect farmers from catastrophic loss and the food supply, everyone wins.
It’s time to put partisanship aside and pass a bill. Because it does more than supports farmers. It supports us all.