Farm bill: lesson for the lefty sphere

Last dealt with by me on June 25, the farm bill has moved on a little.

CQ in the Times did a piece on the bill outlining some of the difficulties that the leadership may face on the floor:

Party leaders are concerned the money crunch will incite an intraparty squabble on the House floor because the bill is not likely to satisfy many Democrats outside of the Agriculture panel, aides say.

Many of those lawmakers say their top priorities are land conservation, nutrition, energy and rural development -- accounts for which there is little extra money in the current version of the bill.

Among potential troublemakers fingered is Ron Kind, whose FARM21 bill I looked at in the last piece.

The following day regular visitor here Dan Owens gave a detailed analysis of the Kind bill. Cliff Notes: he wasn't impressed.

Now, I'm all about process here: Owens is the substance guy, and, from what I understand of the policy preferences of his organization (in particular, an effective subsidy cap - a House Ag subcommittee voted against changing the current loophole-y rules), I'm happy to take his vote on Kind as prima facie evidence, at least, that it's less than wholly kosher.

Next, Peterson has announced that there will be two ag bills:

one with fully offset additional funding that would meet Pay/Go rules, and the other that would tap around $17.5 billion of the up to $20 billion farm bill reserve fund but which has no offsets to date.

(The reserve fund is Congressional Budget Act jiggery-pokery to which we will have to return.)

Finally, Harkin - who, last time I looked, was behind Peterson in marking up his version of the bill - says his bill will differ on subsidies from the Peterson bill, as it's slowly emerging from the subcommittee markups.

But note this Harkin quote:

I'm not talking about drastic change. I'm talking about modest proposals that will move us in a different direction. This is not a Ron Kind type of bill.

So - the current difference-splitter on subsidies is apparently Mr Cheesy Poof!

Sheep may safely graze...

Peterson - link disappeared - is talking about a full committee markup on July 17. It would then, I suppose, be possible that the bill(s) will hit the floor before the summer recess.

But - the plan is (if I understand correctly) to whip through as many as possible of the FY08 apps bills before the recess. So - what to do?

The priority, I believe, is the farm bill; unlike the school aid reauthorization, as I understand it, if the farm reauthorization isn't enacted by September 30, things do not continue under the current law, but revert to something primeval and nasty.

If that's correct, then obviously that makes the stakes higher.

So - how 'bout that lefty sphere?

Among the leading lights, we've had some welcome front page attention here, but not so you'd notice elsewhere. (Not that I've noticed, anyway.)

Nancy, when she was amongst us, worked the food quality and nutrition angle: the cost to the US is not just the obscene corporate welfare. But - to little avail.

I think that there is a radical, systemic inability of the lefty sphere (and the online left in general) in dealing with important legislation like the farm bill.

Blogs are, I think, an ineffective means of dealing with such a slow-burn, technical matter. Retrieving past discussions is difficult. There is no easy-to-find compedium of the state of the art on a particular bill.

Yet - the thing that really juices the sphere is election horse race: to get candidates elected to Congress and the WH to do stuff.

We saw that (at a slightly lower decibel level than currently) with the 06 Congressional elections. Thousands of man hours invested here alone.

Bingo! It's the twofer. And pretty much the first thing the sphere does is - move onto Prez 08.

There's been lots of stuff on Iraq, of course. But on the rest of the doings of those hard-won Congressional majorities?

I have some ideas on what we might do. But - later.

Tags: farm bill, FARM21, Lefty Sphere Attention to Farm Bill, Ron Kind (all tags)


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