On a recent visit with the News-Leader Editorial Board, U.S. Rep. Billy Long expressed his frustration with the House’s failure to pass a farm bill. That frustration is shared by farmers, hunger relief proponents and rural development program participants.
The current farm bill expires Sunday, leaving those who grow our food, serve rural areas and feed the poor wondering what the future holds — and planning for the future is what they all need to be able to do.
But many Congress members who are now back in their districts stumping for votes have been more worried about their own political futures.
To be fair, our local representatives have spoken out in support of getting a farm bill. Long, R-Springfield, noted what every farmer knows — farmers need a five-year bill to “provide certainty to the agriculture community.”
Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, knows from personal experience. She runs a livestock and grain operation and sits on the House Agriculture Committee, which approved a bill that was later held up on the House floor.
Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, was among 11 farm state Republicans to sign a petition to force a vote, but the petition fell far short of its needed signatures.
The Senate passed its version of the farm bill, which cuts $400 million in food and nutrition programs over the next 10 years, but a group of Republicans in the House Tea Party Caucus held up the bill, insisting $1.65 billion be cut from those programs.
So, in order to cut programs that feed hungry children and families — including food stamps and WIC — those immovable representatives preferred to hold hostage the very people who produce the food that feeds everyone.
Missouri farmers, who will soon be making plans for next year’s growing season, are left wondering what they will be able to do, whether their crop insurance programs will still exist, whether farm loans will still be available.
In the middle of a drought that shows no signs of lifting, the uncertainty of farming is becoming even more uncertain.
In the middle of an economic drought, the uncertainty of many families who have lost jobs and homes is made even more uncertain as they face empty shelves at local food pantries that no longer get enough food commodities to fill those empty bellies.
In the middle of an uncertain election, congressional candidates want us to trust them to make it all work out — if we elect them.
Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.