In an editorial at the Grand Forks Herald today, opinion editor Tom Dennis writes about the importance of the upcoming farm bill. But not, as it happens, because of farm-specific issue but rather because there are other issues attached to that legislation as well.
There will be flood control projects tucked into the bill, as well as funding for conservation programs. North Dakotans should “make sure the multi-faceted farm bill is a big part of the political discussion in the region” writes Dennis
Multi-faceted being the operative word.
Politicians lumping so many largely disparate issues into the enormous bills leads to a lot of bad policy, and it’s not just the farm bill where we see this happen. Other large bills, such as transportation bills and large spending bills, get ornamented like Christmas trees with every politician’s pet bills. Because these gigantic pieces of legislation cover so many issues, they become nearly impossible to oppose.
Farmers interested in the agriculture aspects of the farm bill find themselves pitted against conservationists who, in turn, find themselves pitted against urban citizens interested in flood control. The last farm bill contained an expansion (and renaming) of the food stamps program. But, really, what do food stamps have to do with agriculture? Other than the program representing a food entitlement?
Setting aside the debate over the various issues that will be in the next farm bill, we should all agree that policies proposals should be covered on their own merits, not wrapped up into these larger bills. If there is a case to be made for conservation efforts, then let that case be made on its own rather than see policy passed simply because it’s attached to a larger, more popular piece of legislation.
Some, of course, will argue that this splitting up the issues would make it impossible for Congress to tackle all of the business before it. To which I’d say that maybe such a reality is an indication that Congress simply does too much, and should do far less.