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Remember the farm bill, that once-in-five-years legislation that sets the nation’s agriculture and hunger policy? Due for reauthorization in 2012, it lurched through both the Senate and the House ag committee. But then it floundered on the floor of the House—whose GOP leadership refused to bring it to a vote, in an attempt to avoid conflict with Tea Party stalwarts seeking draconian cuts in anti-hunger programs.
But everything changed on New Year’s Day, when the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal between Congress and the White House included a fast-and-dirty, stop-gap farm bill compromise that will be in place only until September—meaning that Congress will have to start from scratch on a new five-year bill this year.
Thus like the fiscal cliff deal itself, the farm bill extension amounts to a feeble kick of the can down the road. And as you might expect from something hastily slapped together behind closed doors, it’s a policy hodgepodge, and mostly a dismal one. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the main progressive-ag lobbying group, minced no words in its assessment: “a disaster for farmers and the American people.”
I got Ferd Hoefner, NSAC’s policy director and a longtime farm bill observer, to explain what’s in the deal. Here are the main points:
Originally posted here –