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Blogs / Power

Farm-Bill Battle Looks Like Fun-House Mirror Reflection

Central Illinois farmer Jacob Hermes uses a combine to harvest his winter wheat crop Tuesday, June 19, 2012 Bradfordton, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

July 3, 2012

On Congress's agenda is passing the farm bill, and when it comes to the agricultural measure, party politics everything is, well, flipped.

My colleagues Ben Terris and Kelsey Snell lay it out:

It sounds like your typical Washington fight: One side extols the glories of the free market, while the other talks about the importance of protecting people during hard times. But in the world of the farm bill, everything is flipped. Allegiances are determined not by party doctrine or ideology but by high-value crop acreage.

As it turns out, Republicans who came to Washington to keep government out of their constituents' backyards see things differently when those backyards are filled with rice or peanuts. And Great Plains Democrats who defend the safety net turn into market cheerleaders when it helps lock in record prices for wheat, corn, and soybeans.

That's why the battle over the farm bill looks a bit like a reflection in a fun-house mirror.

The Senate passed legislation that Democrats praise as a market-driven way to help America's farmers, while Republicans in the House worry that the Senate bill may be fine in good times but not sufficiently protective of farmers in bad times. The House solution? Allow the government to help set a price floor for when the bottom falls out from under some of the nation's most bountiful crops.

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