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Tribune Editorial: Congress needs a deal on Farm Bill

The House failed Thursday to pass the Farm Bill — the major legislation that defines America’s agriculture and food assistance policy. The Senate had already approved the $955 billion package.

Congress has been working for four years on this Farm Bill, but still cannot get the job done. The bill failed in the House after it was amended to restrict food stamp payments and change how the federal dairy program operates.

Both political parties — Democrat and Republicans — are to blame for this latest failure on the Farm Bill. Republicans voted against it because they believe it did not cut the food stamp program enough and Democrats voted against it because they believe it cut the food stamp program too much.

The Senate’s bill included a $4 billion decrease in funding for food stamps over the next decade. The House version was looking for up to $20 billion in cuts to food assistance.

The Senate’s bill was a five-year spending plan with reforms, including eliminating direct payments to farmers and expanding the subsidized crop insurance program, which serves as a safety net against price volatility and bad weather.

The Senate version also links crop insurance availability to responsible stewardship of farmland, by requiring maintenance of grasslands or wetlands.

The House needs to find a workable compromise within itself and with the Senate.

Conservation measures are important for the farmers and citizens throughout Minnesota. The Senate version of the bill has stronger conservation measures and better benefits for all in the state — farmers, citizens and wildlife.

Members of Congress and the public should also remember the primary purpose of the Farm Bill — to help the agriculture industry and its farmers to produce an abundant and affordable food supply that is critical to our national and economic security.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and others in Congress have worked long and hard to bring forward a bipartisan bill that had Democrat and Republican support. The bill should provide an appropriate safety net for all crops and regions in the ag industry, invest in rural America, have a safety net for the vulnerable of our communities and includes needed reforms and reduce costs.

Congress needs to find a compromise that works on the Farm Bill and not let it to turn into a big cow pie.

The Farm Bill is important to all of America.