Editorial: Farm bill massive, helpful

Feb. 04, 2014 @ 11:08 PM

President Barack Obama’s signature on a five-year farm bill is another step forward in political parties working together.

Positive actions should be coming for Tri-County farmers. And, like any other bill in the state or federal halls of government, it will include items begging us to ask, “What does that have to do with it?”

While the spending exceeds what many Congressional members desired, the bill will offer a chance at cracking down on fraud in the food stamp game. That’s long overdue, as we’ve said here before.

Fraud works both ways in food stamps. It can be achieved by those receiving them, and it can be achieved by retailers who sell them.

One in seven of us are in the program now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP for short. That’s about 47 million people.

SNAP trafficking will be monitored, and it is believed people who have died will not receive benefits. Yes, among the guffaws about dead people voting, they’ve also been getting food stamps, too.

Lottery winners, convicted murders and sex offenders will no longer get food stamps. We don’t have a problem there either.

We do believe in the American farmer and still have many in the Tri-County. Their vitality has a big impact on our food prices.

The problem lawmakers faced in crafting such a bill was the enormity of its reach. Different locations of the country need different parts of the bill, whether row crops, specialty crops, livestock, organics or local food systems. Incentives are spread, such as those for rice and peanut farmers in the South.

Farmers were able to get subsidies whether they farmed or not through the direct payment program. Now they’ll choose between two programs, which critics say is nothing more than bait and switch.

And still to be fought and rectified are duplications of government assistance and the projects many view as far less than primary — sheep marketing, sushi rice and maple syrup were pointed out by Republican Sen. John McCain, for example.

The legislation began in 2011 and has been roundly defeated until this week. The final outcome isn’t perfect.

But Tri-County farmers needed some help. We hope it has arrived.