Well, the Farm Bill race of 2012 is over, although the new bill is only a nine-month extension tacked onto the far larger fiscal cliff bill.
The final vote last night in the house was 257-167, with support from a large majority of Democrats and 36% support from Republicans. In the end, the landslide of approval for the bill was an aversion to actually going over the fiscal cliff – since Tuesday was a national holiday, today was the deadline for resolution.
The farm bill passed easily, but only because of its integration with the fiscal cliff debate. Ignoring the voices of countless farmers, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was able to sweep aside the past year’s work by the Senate Agriculture Committee, while in the House the looming fiscal cliff meant that passing any bill was better than passing a good one.
Overall, we are incredibly disappointed with this result. The loss of mandatory funding for so many essential programs – as well as no reform on subsidies and a milk reform that favors big distributors over producers – is quite a blow.
There is a silver lining, however. The bill that was rolled into the fiscal cliff resolution is not the normal five-year bill. It is only an extension, giving the new Congress the year to work on a real bill. Just when you thought it had to be over, it gets stretched out again!
Yesterday’s vote shows us that this is an incredibly important time to be keeping tabs on what’s going on in DC and to be pushing for true reform. We are excited by the prospects of the new year ahead, and the amazing work that we can all do together to further the mission of the beginning farmer and sustainable agriculture movement!