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Published January 29, 2014, 09:46 AM

OPINION: Farm bill deserves Congress’ support

Congratulations to North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson and others on the House-Senate conference committee, who didn’t let the one of the most fractious and partisan environments in decades stop them from crafting a compromise farm bill.

By: Tom Dennis, Forum News Service

Hardline conservatives are likely to vote against it. Zealous liberals are likely to do the same.

And that suggests the farm bill’s conferees got it straight down the middle.

Congratulations to North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson and others on the House-Senate conference committee, who didn’t let the one of the most fractious and partisan environments in decades stop them from crafting a compromise farm bill.

The bill’s final passage still is not certain — especially in the House, where members could vote on the bill today.

But even there, the early signs were good, another credit to the job done by the conferees.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., endorsed the bill Tuesday. So did the House’s minority whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who went on to predict a bipartisan vote of approval.

Hoyer “noted that even Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the liberal head of the Congressional Black Caucus, is backing the measure,” The Hill newspaper reported.

“Democratic support will almost certainly be vital to the bill’s passage,” The Hill continued. That’s because despite the speaker and majority leader’s endorsements, “dozens of conservatives are expected to vote against it to protest spending levels they consider too high.

“Hoyer predicted the only way the bill would fail is if a much larger wave of Republicans than expected bucks the GOP leadership,” according to the newspaper.

While it may be the product of a compromise, the farm bill is far from a timid or wishy-washy piece of legislation. The bill actually ends direct payments to farmers, replacing that program an enhanced crop-insurance program.

“It addresses several conservation issues, and it ‘maintains food assistance for families’ even as it targets abuse of that program, according to released by the House and Senate Agriculture Committees late Monday,” as National Public Radio described.

The bill cuts food stamps by $8 billion over 10 years — more than the Senate had asked for, but less than the $40 billion that had won approval in the GOP-controlled House.

“Another provision would aid livestock producers who are hit by natural disasters and severe weather, such as droughts and springtime freezes,” NPR continued.

All in all, the long-overdue bill now has run a Washington gauntlet of extraordinary intensity and emerged as a strong, thoroughly negotiated and solidly bipartisan piece of legislation. The full House and Senate should pass the measure, and President Barack Obama should sign it into law.

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