Sunday, May 19, 2013
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
President Obama told Iowa farmers Monday to pressure Republicans -- including the newly minted Republican vice presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan -- to pass a new farm bill. That's the best way to help farmers hard hit by drought, the president argued.
"The best way to help these states is for leaders in Congress to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some long-term certainty," Obama said.
We're not sure what legislation Obama has in mind because we haven't seen a bill in Congress this session that "makes necessary reforms."
Congress should help farmers in need. And it should pass a new farm bill, the five-year blueprint for federal farm policy that funds everything from crop insurance to food stamps.
But the president should urge lawmakers to pass a bill that actually reforms the bloated, outdated system of farm supports. Neither bill under consideration does so.
Both bills cut too much from conservation programs, which help farmers prepare for future natural disasters.
But a key difference between the bills -- and a sticking point for conservatives -- is how food stamps are treated.
The Senate bill would cut $4.5 billion from the program; the House bill would cut $16.5 billion. We think all government programs should be scrutinized, but we question big cuts to a program so essential to the social safety net at a time when so many people remain out of work.
Congress should provide short-term, targeted relief for farmers who need it. But lawmakers should plow under some of their work on these bills and get tougher on farm subsidies while preserving a reasonable allowance in the bill for food stamps and conservation programs.
And they shouldn't be pressured into a bad bill just to hit a deadline.