Farm and Food File: Listen up, hired hands in Congress

It just might be that no one takes Congress too seriously because its members take themselves so seriously.

Low public approval

How else do you explain a public approval rating of only 9 percent and still not one hint of any change in the collective behavior that has made the institution and its members as popular as chickenpox? Golly, even a blind sow finds an acorn every now and then.

Not this bunch.

Failure

For example, as the less-than-super committee swan-dived into federal budget failure Nov. 21, the leaders of the Senate and House ag committees issued a joint statement that proudly proclaimed their “bipartisan, bicameral” effort to “generate sound ideas to cut spending by tens of billions of dollars while maintaining key priorities to grow the country’s agriculture economy.”

What bipartisan, bicameral baloney. Almost no one who had any role in piecing together a farm bill as part of the failed budget talks called the final product “sound” or believed that it would “grow the country’s agriculture economy.”

Making a mess

In fact, most farm groups, ag lobbyists and House and Senate ag committee members viewed the hastily written bill quite unsound and feared its “key priorities” would make a mess of today’s largely market-responsive agriculture.

The Senate’s top aggie, Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and her House counterpart, Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the two who mixed up this legislative hash, had their doubts, too.

Proof came Nov. 27 when The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress, reported that neither committee chair will “release the full details of their final (farm bill) framework, even to their colleagues.”

Why wouldn’t the Head Clucks let their chicks in on the plan they were ready to give the Super Dupers and, possibly, make the law of the land?

Lobbyists

“Farm lobbyists,” The Hill went to explain, “say this reflects the fact they do not have the backing of the committees for their proposal.”

Whoa, the daily double: a blinding glimpse of the obvious and the plain truth in one declarative sentence.

So all this “bipartisan, bicameral” mush was really cover for one Senate democrat and one House republican whose joint experience at leading Congressional ag committees equals their combined time driving 747s: none to wipe their fingerprints off a Southern-tilted farm bill that would have never made it out of either committee had the normal, democratic process been followed.

Secretive plan

Moreover, despite the pre-flop spin and, later, their refusal to share their secretive, two-person plan, evidence also points to Lucas and Stabenow’s inability to do math.

Their farm bill proposal likely didn’t cut $23 billion in farm and food spending over the coming decade that each said was doable in the run-up of the Super Duper’s collapse.

Hill sources now say the actual cuts contained in the bill were closer to $17 billion, far short of their own target and far, far short of the Super and the White House’s talked-about target of $30 billion.

Does any of this sound like “sound ideas” or “tens of billions” in cuts to maintain “key priorities to grow the country’s agriculture economy” to you?

No connection

Take out the spin and the best to be said about the twin failures of the Supers and the aggies is that both failed. This is good because neither had the slightest connection to democracy, political courage and thoughtful leadership.

There never was anything “bipartisan” or “bicameral” about either. Instead, both were wasteful exercises in arrogance and hubris.

The next best thing is that their failures open the door to our success. We — you and me — must direct these hired hands to do the work we need done. After all, that’s how democracy works.

‘Course, you already know this because that’s how it works on every farm and ranch every day.

© 2011 ag comm

About the Author

Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com More Stories by Alan Guebert

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