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Don’t let politicians cause you to take your eye off farm bill ball

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The nutrition title and food stamps are causing distractions in the latest round of farm bill debates.

“All the time you spend trying to get back what’s been took from you, there’s more going out the door.”― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

Peanut industry lobbyist Bob Redding had some sage advice for those attending the recent Southern Peanut Growers Conference in Panama City, Fla.: it’s time to start focusing on getting a good farm bill passed and not be so distracted by the contentious issue of the nutrition title and food stamps.

Quoting Redding directly: “Don’t struggle with this nutrition in and nutrition out business too much — that will be worked out by House and Senate leaders at a very high level. Our focus should now be on the minutiae of Title I. If it passes the Senate, it’ll have to have a nutrition title.”

Politicians have a knack for distracting folks from the issues that matter most, and they’ve had some success with this strategy when it comes to food stamps. First, the U.S. House passed a farm bill with a nutrition title that contained cuts to the food stamp program that were unacceptable to the President and Congress. Then, they passed a “true farm bill” with no nutrition title, something that has a slim to none chance of ever seeing full passage. So for now, everyone seems to be talking more about food stamp rather than target prices. See how this works?

We can agree that strict reforms need to be made to the current food stamp program. We’ve all stood behind someone in the supermarket checkout line who obviously did not deserve government aid or who was abusing their benefits. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed but not at the expense of a decent farm bill.

And what’s the problem with a true farm bill, with no nutrition title attached? In a perfect world, where the majority of people didn’t believe their food grows in the aisle of the local grocery story, it would be ideal. But unfortunately, this is not the world in which we live. Considering the ever-increasing lack of rural representation in Congress, farming could quickly go from being insignificant to non-existent if made to stand alone.

For anyone in agriculture, Title I of the farm bill is of utmost importance at this time, not Title IV. There’s no glory in passing legislation that simply makes a statement, but has no chance of becoming law.

phollis@farmpress.com

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