As we mentioned yesterday, Congress heads out for vacay on Friday, having solved all of our nation’s problems except for most of them.
One big issue that remains unresolved: the farm bill. The current version of the broad-ranging legislation that governs nearly every aspect of our food supply is due to expire at the end of September. Congress spent the spring running around, passing a version of a replacement bill in the Senate and a far-less-thorough stopgap in the House. And then it stalled.
It’s a complicated issue, to be fair, and there is significant disagreement on what should be included. The Senate version of the legislation includes protection of food-stamp programs and reforms to payment systems. House conservatives, on the other hand, want to gut everything and then laugh at it. The way the process usually works, the two sides would now be in conference to resolve the dispute. But it appears there’s no movement at all.
Earlier this week, House Republican leadership sought a one-year extension to the current bill, hoping to push off debate — and any internal party disputes — until 2013. The move met with broad condemnation: conservatives who want to spike any bill; agriculture activists worried about long-term planning for farmers; lobbying groups that want to cut any and all funding right now. Late yesterday, the extension plan was scrapped.
The stalemate comes at a bad time for farmers, of course, who are forced to consider one of the worst years for crops in decades without any sense of what to expect for 2013. This was part of the goal of a one-year extension by House leaders, to introduce at least some consistency.
It’s almost certain that no consistency will come this week. Congress will instead retire to their summer estates this Saturday, emerging every so often to lament to unwashed voters the toxic atmosphere in Washington, thanks to Obama or Boehner, depending on their party affiliation.
While the farmers rake the dirt in their fields.