Congress seems to be doing little this year other than deciding not to decide, as was the case recently with the farm bill. House Speaker John Boehner said the measure won’t be considered until after the election.
Yet maybe that was best. The versions approved by the Senate and House agriculture panels only nibbled at the goal of real reform of the nation’s farm programs. In perhaps the worst provisions, annual cash payments would be scrapped and replaced with another layer of potentially costly crop insurance.
Critics rightly pointed out that this “shallow loss” policy would encourage farmers to plow marginal or environmentally sensitive acreage, knowing that even if there’s no crop they’d be guaranteed a certain income. Government-subsidized insurance would remove much of farming’s risk.
The corrosive effects aren’t hard to imagine. Farming is an endeavor still associated with the virtues of independence and self-reliance — values that don’t long survive in no-risk businesses.
Surely Congress can do better. With the nation facing a budgetary crisis, one can hope that after the election — with lawmakers facing the automatic cuts that are part of the “fiscal cliff” — Congress will be in a mood more conducive to serious reform.
Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.