Our View: New farm bill on the horizon

12/21/2013 12:00 AM

12/21/2013 7:54 PM

There’s a good chance Congress will come back from its winter recess in January and pass a farm bill.

Why, after five years of rancorous dysfunction between House Republicans and Senate Democrats, do we hold such a crazy dream? Because two weeks ago Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., worked out a budget deal. Few liked the budget they got, but most liked that they got one. Our representatives are home on recess right now; hopefully, constituents are filling their ears with encouragement to keep this ball rolling.

Crafting a workable five-year, $900 billion farm bill would be a great place to start.

The farm bill is one of those huge, omnibus laws that reaches far beyond the farm gate. Many believe it exists only to help Midwestern corporate farmers. But it also helps feed poor children, affects prices of everything from fuel to fruit cups and, here in the San Joaquin Valley, plays a big role in cleaning up our air and water.

It’s important.

No surprise, the House and Senate versions passed earlier this year differed radically. Last month, the competing bills were carried into the House/Senate conference by a few members of each chamber. Their job is to bridge some vast differences and forge a single bill – if they can.

Jeff Denham and Jim Costa are both among the 29 representatives who are meeting with 12 senators. Republican Denham represents Stanislaus and part of San Joaquin counties; Democrat Costa represents Merced and parts of Fresno and Madera counties. This is a perfect opportunity to set aside any partisan differences, link arms and get the job done.

By helping our area farmers, we’ll be helping everyone in our part of the valley.

There are 12 “titles,” or sections, in the farm bill; several are big for us. The accompanying material explains why.

Forty-one legislators will try to hammer out a farm bill compromise in early January. Costa and Denham know the stakes. Like Ryan and Murray, they might not be able to get everything that’s important to area farmers. Without a farm bill, we’ll get very little.

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