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What's Holding Up The Farm Bill?

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Farm in Rural Virginia | Photo: jimbowen0306/Flickr/Creative Commons License

When I wrote a few weeks back about the 2012 Farm Bill being passed by the Senate and moving into the House, I warned you that debate may be getting a bit more heated and contentious. (It only makes sense, seeing as the two halves of Congress are currently being led by two different parties; you couldn't pass a bill right now stating that "America is awesome" without some minor squabbling.) But I didn't expect the anger to get as vicious as it is.

While there's plenty of small differences between the bill that was passed by the Senate and the one meandering through the House -- David Rogers over at Politico has the best summary of the two bills in their current state, a must-read if there ever was one -- the largest difference is as follows: Support for the farmer in the Senate bill is tied to how the market for their crop is doing, while the House bill takes a more fixed view on how money should be distributed.

While the specifics are a bit bit convoluted, the general philosophical difference between the two is that the Senate, as Rogers puts it, creates a "Captain of My Ship" mentality for farmers who want to roll the dice and perhaps make some more money if the world market goes up, up, up. The House, on the other hand, thinks it's better to offer a wider and more concrete safety net that takes away the large risks (and, alas, possibly larger rewards) for farmers.

But while that's easily the most important aspect of the bill, and the one that will have the largest impact on the country over the next five years, the part that's been the focus of the most heated vitriol in the House has been, expectedly, the heavy cuts in the food stamp program. Representative James Clyburn (Dem.) from South Carolina called the bill an "abomination," saying that, "we should not set ourselves up as protectors of the wealthy, which seems to be what we are doing in this farm bill." Representative Collin Peterson (Dem.) from Minnesota said that, "this is a bill that robs the poor to pay the rich."

Yowzas.

Again: The current bill is set to end at the end of September, so this is no doubt going to get more heated before it gets any cooler. So grab some popcorn and tune into C-SPAN for the fun!

The interesting thing in all of this is that the point-of-view from the Democratic side seems to be in direct opposition from you, the dear reader. When I last asked your thoughts about the farm bill, you guys heavily voted in favor of even more cuts rather than less. Which means, once again, it's time to ask your opinion.

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