Looking for another measure of the dysfunction in Congress? Try the languishing farm bill, ordinarily a picture of bipartisanship. The Senate approved its version in July. A House bill emerged from committee, but the full chamber has yet to take a vote. And time is running out.
Part of the delay reflects good intentions, members seeking to bring efficiencies and wring savings out of farm programs. Too often the beneficiary isn’t the ideal family farm. Rather, generous subsidies flow to large corporate farming operations. So, yes, spending reductions should be made.
The frustrating aspect is, such choices should have been made long ago. Now, as the New York Times reported last week, lawmakers face something of an absurdity. If they do not act by the end of the year, policies regarding dairy products would revert to 1949, the federal government paying hugely inflated prices for milk and cheese. The ripple effect eventually would hit grocery shelves.
The safe bet is, Congress will do enough to avoid the prospect of the price on a gallon of milk rising to $6 or $8. Still, that hardly is sufficient, approving what amounts to a stop-gap measure.
No doubt, the decisions involving farm policy are tough. Yet here are programs long in need of adjustment. This is what Congress is supposed to do, engaging in give and take, making compromises, pushing matters in the right direction. Instead, farmers and the rest of us face another congressional cliffhanger.