Keeping our farmers sound

The Farm Bill has passed the Senate and the House has been unable to pass its own version, defeating it in mid-May amid attempts to attach work requirements to the food stamp program, which is the major component of the Farm Bill.

The first price supports dated to the early years of the Great Depression, rising with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.

In 1938, the food stamp program was added to the mix, with the Department of Agriculture to determine which foods were surplus and should be made available for those struggling economically.

Roosevelt did not want a food giveaway without a work component attached, believing that simply handing out sustenance was like a narcotic that would create a non-working class dependent on the federal dole.

Fast forward 80 years and Congress cannot agree about the work component to the point where a divided Republican Party — remember, Roosevelt was a Democrat — couldn’t pass this year’s version of the Farm Bill in the House.

The Senate Agriculture Committee did a kind of two-step around the issue, passing a bill that is in many ways a carryover from the current five-year bill, which expires at the end of September. Adjustments were made to provide more responsive assistance to dairy farmers. There continues to be an environmental stewardship element in the bill, and rural mental health and economic development initiatives are addressed as always, including more funding for rural broadband, which benefits Southeastern Ohio, where the population isn’t dense enough and the terrain is rough enough to keep major service providers from building the infrastructure so vital to life in the 21st century.

The Ag committee didn’t address the need for work or economic education as the House tried to do with the bill unveiled in April by U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. Conaway’s bill would have required most food stamp recipients to find a job or attend classes for about 20 hours a week. That proved to be too much for some and not enough for others in the House and the bill fell in May.

It’s the recapturing of the original spirit of what Roosevelt intended in the 1930s, a hand up, not a hand out.

But if that’s too controversial for the current divided climate, perhaps keeping in mind that keeping America’s farmers economically sound despite the vagaries of food markets — perhaps even more vital given the potential food trade war looming amid the tariffs being bandied across the world — should take precedence. Without food, there are, after all, no reasons for food stamps.

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