Monday, September 17, 2012

This is Farm Country

You know, the land across southern Minnesota and on down through Iowa has often been called the best farm land in America. This is beautiful and productive land in any case and I hope it is still producing healthy and wonderful food generations from now. Right now, however, our farmers need a farm bill that is stalled in Congress to get passed. Legislators are afraid to vote on it and farmers are danged angry.
by Charlie Leck

Republicans and the Department of Agriculture
It’s a fact that the Republicans don’t much like most of the departments of the federal government. You can count them, if you like, but we all know pretty much which one’s they are. Remember the extraordinary candidate’s debate when Governor Perry (Texas) mentioned that there were three departments of the federal government he’d close down, but then, red-faced, couldn’t remember what they were.

Some folks say he’d really like to close more departments than that, but three is as high as he can count. (That’s not nice, so I apologize for saying it!)

Perry was for closing down the Departments Commerce, Education and Environmental Protection. Geez!

There are other departments on other Republicans list. It seems that at one time or another they all get mentioned for close-downs, except, of course, the Department of Defense.

Why not? What good are any of them?
The Department of Energy
…Health and Human Services
…Homeland Security
…Housing and Urban Development
…the Interior
…Veterans Affairs

Most often mentioned, after Energy, for closing down, is the Department of Agriculture. What good is it anyway? Beyond the few things listed below, what the heck does it do anyway?
…Inspection of Animal and Plant Health
…Food Safety and Inspection Services
…Grain Inspection …Stockyard Inspection, Meat Packer Inspection
…Forest Service
…Resources Conservation
…Federal Crop Insurance
…Rural Utilities Services
…Rural Development Services
…Nutrition and Food Services

It’s always an easy thing to say for these politicians. It’s pretty interesting to go to the web sites of the various departments of government and to take a look at all they do. The responsibilities of Agriculture, for instance, that I list above is just a fraction of all they do to protect farmers and consumers.

Right now, the Republicans have stalled action on a farm bill, which renews the budget of the Department of Agriculture. We're looking at a shut-down of this important department that is so important to farmers rely. Without passage of the bill, about 90 percent of the department’s work would cease. The Republicans don’t want to vote on it before the election because they don’t want those spending measures to be held against them when folks vote.

In fact, the current bill sucks, but some kind of funding measure needs to be passed. As the bill stands now, there would be deep cuts in the food stamp program and that would seriously impact the nation’s poor and would cause the states to begin creating individual and separate programs to, once again, pick up what the federal government can do so much more efficiently. Some of the more conservative states would simply do nothing and the hungry would have to figure things out for themselves. When a man has a hungry family he can’t feed, he often turns to desperate measures.

There are plenty of other services – designed mainly to assist the farmer – that would also be cut off. They include programs for minority farmers, farmers markets, organic agriculture development, wetland services and many, many more.

Democrats are lined up, ready to approve the bill if they can’t get it improved, but the fellows on the Republican side of the aisle are holding the legislation hostage so the Tea Party doesn’t get angry at them.

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