By The Bakersfield Californian
Originally scheduled for a vote next year, the 2012 farm bill has been submitted to the congressional supercommittee to be considered as part of the deficit reduction proposal the panel will issue by Thanksgiving. The decision to hand over the reins of the farm bill to the secretive supercommittee was made by House and Senate agriculture committee leaders who are rewriting the bill behind closed doors before submitting it to the panel. Almost all members of the ag committees have ties to industrial corn and soybeans growers who have traditionally reaped the most from controversial federal farm subsidies.
Those farm subsidies are supposed to be drastically cut in the new farm bill, but there's legitimate concern they will be retained in some fashion at the expense of other important funding needs during the covert rewrite process.
The farm bill sets national food policy for five years. It is the largest environmental bill that Congress enacts, covering a quarter of California -- 27.6 million acres -- and 40 percent of the U.S. land mass. In addition to subsidies, it covers food, nutrition and environmental policy, such as ranch-land conservation and school lunch programs. It's unfathomable to think funding for these programs could be rubber-stamped without any congressional or public review, nor input from the $36 billion California farming industry.
A bipartisan group of 27 congressional members sent a letter to the supercommittee Thursday, urging it to resist the ag committees' request to include the farm bill in the deficit reduction plan. We agree.
Farm subsidies deserve scrutiny by the supercommittee and their recommendations are welcome. But other farm bill policies and programs are too important to be decided behind closed doors. The farm bill should be openly and publicly debated, as always.