The Farm Bill remember that? is still kicking around Congress, and showing off just how political its members can be when it comes to handing out taxpayer money.
Of course, when it comes to the Farm Bill, that's nothing new. It's long been criticized as overdue for an overhaul, seeing as how the major way it's changed since the Great Depression is to dole out more and more, often to millionaire farmers (and nonfarmers), not small family farms.
Here's how the San Francisco Chronicle summed up the state of the bloated bill:
Democratic lawmakers are struggling to finance billions of dollars in automatic payments to grain and soybean farmers during a record commodity boom and add another multibillion-dollar "permanent disaster" program for Great Plains farmers plowing highly erodible land while at the same time providing promised money for nutrition, conservation and California fruit and vegetable growers in a $286 billion farm bill.
Lawmakers face an April 18 deadline to pass a new five-year farm bill when a temporary extension of the current law expires. But what began last year as a plan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, to preserve crop subsidies by adding money for everyone else is cracking under the weight of a White House veto threat, rising food inflation, increasing pressure on fragile farmland and a slowing economy that make crop subsidies harder to justify each day.
With food prices at record-high levels (thank Congress, in part, for requiring the use of so much corn-based ethanol) and opposition from citizens and lawmakers who are both budget-conscious and wary of subsidizing the crops that make junk food cheap (hydrogenated corn oil, anyone?), it's harder and harder to justify, in other words, doling out rewards to farm-state Democrats who will face tough opposition from Republicans in their next election. That's another very old part of the farm bill: Whichever party is in power can't resist retaining the subsidies, to support their political solvency in the Heartland.
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