Politics of drought: The nation deserves a sensible, affordable farm bill
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As drought wreaks havoc on America's heartland, lobbyists are leaning on Congress to pass a flawed, trillion-dollar farm bill. Lawmakers should not wait until after the November election to enact the legislation, but they also should not use the drought as a pretext to approve a bad bill.
The farm statute expires on Sept. 30. If a new law is not passed and in effect by then, crop insurance will cover most major drought-related losses among farmers.
The crop most affected by the drought is corn for animal feed, not sweet corn that people consume. Supplies of the former were tight before the drought began in March, so livestock-grain prices would have risen anyway. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates food prices will rise no more than 1.5 percent higher than they would have without the drought.
The version of the farm bill preferred by House Republicans is too rich with unneeded subsidies and would do too much harm to the food stamp program. Congress can do better.
The current drought is the most widespread in the lower 48 states since 1956. In some parts of the country, the drought has caused building foundations and pavement to crumble from dried soil and sinkholes.
Drought is hard to predict, let alone prevent. But this has been the warmest period since the 1880s. The climate-change debate should not stop Congress from trying to mitigate change with pollution controls.
Although Pittsburgh's recent rains have nudged its year-to-date rainfall total ahead of the norm, other parts of the country are still parched. Congress should not use it as an excuse to pass a bad farm bill.
First Published July 31, 2012 12:00 am