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Thursday, Jan 03 2013 11:00 PM

Congress must sow consensus on new farm bill

By The Bakersfield Californian

Thankfully, the fiscal cliff deal earlier this week included a one-year extension of the farm bill that expired late last year. Without the extension, subsidies to dairy farmers would have dried up and a gallon of milk could have reached $7. That would have been devastating for consumers. But the extension is still a poor deal for the nation's farmers and Congress should act quickly to get a new five-year bill in place.

Because California farmers tend to grow specialty crops (grapes, nuts, citrus), they usually see fewer benefits in the farm bill than Midwest farmers who grow commodity crops. But that doesn't leave the state's industry immune to the effects of failure to pass a new five-year bill. As it stands now, California won't get the $19 million it received last year for things like pest control, crop research and overseas marketing assistance under the extension passed by Congress.

The blame lies squarely with House Republican leadership. The Senate passed a farm bill and the Republican-controlled House Agriculture Committee agreed on its own version of the bill over the summer. If it came up for a vote in the House, it would most certainly pass. But House leaders have refused to act. Even Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, told The Californian he couldn't convince House leaders whom he's very close with to put the bill up for vote. He shouldn't give up.

For all their talk about wanting to provide security for American businesses, how is it House Republicans can't seem to get together and bring some predicability to an industry critical to so many American lives? All it takes is a vote on the farm bill.

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