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Farm group coalition faces uphill battle

In years past, when the American Farm Bureau Federation or the National Corn Growers Association or the National Cotton Council spoke, most members of Congress listened. Most members and especially those in farm states knew those organizations spoke for the farmers in their districts and that if they wanted the farm vote they had better pay heed to what their representatives said.

Last week, those three joined with 36 other mainline farm organizations to ask Congress to pass a new farm bill rather than wait until after the election or after a new Congress is seated in January. The Farm Bill Now coalition represents the recognition of a new reality in Congress: The House is now dominated by members who have lost sight of the true mission of government in their zeal to accomplish one mission -- deficit reduction.

It doesn't seem to matter that the deficit numbers being thrown around ($16 trillion is the one cited most often) bear no relationship to reality or that too drastic a reduction will push the economy back into a recession or worse. These members are convinced that the deficit is evil incarnate and must be vanquished no matter what the cost. The fact that it took 12 years and trying to fight two questionable wars to reach this point is beside the point.

So it doesn't matter that your crops have burned up this year or that you've run out of pasture or hay to feed your livestock or that the Corps of Engineers hasn't had sufficient funding to properly maintain the channel in the Mississippi River and keep barges carrying your grain moving on the River. (One of the ironies of the current situation is that shippers have ample supplies of southern corn to help make up the deficit from drought in the Midwest but no water to move the grain north.)

House leaders keep saying they don't have time to schedule a vote on the farm bill. Democrats in the House say they've had time to vote on everything but the farm bill. What farmers need are members of Congress to decide they want to invest in the country and not tear down farm programs and all the other safety nets that have been put together over the last 80 years.


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