Senator Kent Conrad has a column in the Grand Forks Herald today griping about delays in passing a farm bill in Congress.
Conrad blames Republicans for an “assault on needed farm programs,” but that’s not actually accurate. The dispute over the farm bill had to do with all the non-farm programs that have been slipped into this bill over the years. If Democrats had been willing to accept much-needed cuts to burgeoning social programs such as food stamps (programs which have nothing to do with farming) the farm bill could have passed.
The Democrats wouldn’t compromise, and the farm bill stalled. But I don’t think that’s nearly the crisis for farmers as Conrad is claiming. North Dakota is a top ag state “because of the free market, the hard work of our farmers, technology and our producers’ ability to adapt to market shifts — not the Farm Bill,” wrote Eric Aasmundstad, a former head of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, in a recent letter to the Grand Forks Herald.
“Nothing really changes for producers,” said Dwight Aakre, a farm management specialist with the NDSU Extension Service, back in July. “There is way too much made of the idea that farmers need to know what the farm bill is in order to plan for next year. That’s just not true.”
I suspect that the urgency to pass the farm bill has more to do with politics than farming.
But setting all that aside, it is humorous to watch our Senator, who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, engage in partisan finger-pointing over the lack of a farm bill when he and his party haven’t passed a budget since 2009. Without a budget, we shouldn’t even be talking about a farm bill, but because Conrad and his party have found the budgeting process inconvenient for their political agenda our nation has been running without a fiscal rudder for years.