Although debate over H.R. 2, the House farm bill, got hung up on final passage by unrelated immigration issues, the debate over amendments was illuminating.
House Members had numerous opportunities to engage in a full-throated debate over their support or opposition to elements of U.S. farm policy.
For instance, one amendment proposed to entirely repeal crop insurance and the farm bill safety net for all farmers, including for sugar and dairy farmers.
Another amendment proposed to repeal all energy initiatives under the farm bill.
A third amendment would have allowed for the interstate shipment and distribution of unpasteurized milk.
And, finally, there was the perennial amendment to subvert our policy for U.S. sugar farmers, handing over this American industry to foreign competitors that heavily subsidize their sugar and sell it onto the world dump market at below their costs of production.
While we strongly disagree with these amendments that would have effectively repealed three vital farm bill titles and compromised important food safety measures, we commend their authenticity because the refreshing honesty and transparency offered Members of Congress the opportunity to declare themselves just as clearly.
And, the result: In each instance, the House of Representatives stood fast for the American farmer and rancher — and by overwhelming and bipartisan margins.
In our view, this kind of open, honest debate beats the sneaky subterfuge of some past farm bill debates where pernicious amendments to gut U.S. farm policy have masqueraded as “reforms” in order to confuse the debate.
The Heritage Foundation has made it perfectly clear that it opposes any safety net whatsoever for America’s farmers or ranchers because Heritage denies any unique risks to farming and ranching.
On this, we could not disagree more.
A visit to the southern Great Plains — where in some key agricultural areas it has rained only about an inch in the past 200 days — would easily dispel any notion that farmers and ranchers do not uniquely suffer at the hands of Mother Nature. In the Mississippi delta, farmers have experienced the opposite with a deluge of rainfall preventing them from getting to their fields to plant.
And, even a casual observer of international trade could bear witness to the fact that the American farmer and rancher must not only compete against foreign producers but against the predatory trade practices of foreign governments as well.
Nonetheless, we appreciate the honesty of the Heritage Foundation’s position even though it is not grounded in reality.
In sharp contrast, amendments backed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) were offered in the past three farm bill debates for the ostensible purpose of “reforming” and “improving” existing U.S. farm policy — although farmers and ranchers and policy experts alike near-universally declared at each point that such “reforms” would wreak havoc on the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and dairymen.
But, during the 2018 farm bill debate, the jig was finally up.
Honest and transparent amendments were debated honestly for a change.
And they were resoundingly defeated one by one — and this time with the help of Members of Congress who typically carry EWG’s water but who would not dare to be so blatant in their opposition to farmers, ranchers, and dairymen.
As newspapers across the country are pressed by long-standing opponents of U.S. farm policy to run sensational opinion pieces that criticize the farm bill, and — in the words of one POLITICO reporter — confuse rather than inform readers about U.S. farm policy, the debate in the House offers a model for real, genuine discourse concerning the issues facing farm and ranch families that are built on an old fashioned saying:
Sunshine is the best disinfectant.