Climate Change, Drought, Financial Crisis, “Conservative” Rhetoric and Politics, and the 2012 Farm Bill
A crunch cometh. “Conservatives” have long, and in some circles effectively, denied the existence of climate change. They have also set themselves forth as having the best grip on economic and political reality, and consequently the best answers. These assertions are now headed for a train wreck, and it appears that they have no answers at all.
Whether the powers that be choose to recognize it or not, the majority of the United States, including most of the important food producing areas, are experiencing severe drought—a drought that the (largely ignored) scientific consensus holds to result from greenhouse gas caused climate change.
Against this background, the most recent incarnation of the farm bill expires at the end of September, and so far there is no replacement enactment. The (Democratic majority) Senate passed a bill in July. The Republican controlled House of Representatives adjourned for the August recess without bringing a bill to the floor for a vote. This year’s farm bill brings Republican and “conservative” troubles to the surface. Rural Republican “conservatives” have for decades railed against all federal subsidies except the subsidies to farmers which they believed to be self-evidently entitled to special treatment. Democratic politicians supported farm subsidies because they kept food cheap.
Critics on the periphery of politics were not always shy about attacking the hypocrisies of rural “conservatives” who complained about everyone except themselves and their agricultural constituents receiving benefits derived from tax dollars, but they were largely unheeded. But suburban and urban “conservatives” including Tea Party politicians have taken up the fight against agricultural subsidies along with all others. The House has found it difficult to act and has so far failed to act.
Even before the drought it was known that the 2012 farm bill would differ from farm bills past. There may have been little agreement as to what needs done, but there was a fairly wide consensus that what had previously worked to the extent of keeping Americans fed, an agricultural industry running, and some farmers hanging on, would have to change dramatically.
It is not surprising that many members of Congress avoid this unpleasantness to the extent possible. I suspect that one of the reasons my own congressional representative declined a seat on the House Agriculture Committee when first elected is because she knew that it was going to be hard acrimonious work; perhaps she just didn’t think it was sexy enough despite her own agricultural background (and farm subsidy based income). After it was brought to her attention that our agriculturally dependant state needed her voice on the committee, she belatedly asked and received an Agriculture Committee appointment. She then proceeded to miss 16 of her first 20 committee and sub-committee meetings, and at the 4 meetings she did attend she made exactly one comment of record.
Long term ecological costs of American industrialized agricultural have been knowledgably discussed elsewhere and may be the greatest threat not addressed by Congress. If, as seems likely, Congress does not deal with such problems in the farm bill, then any temporary relief obtained will be just that, and not worthy of the acclamation of a true conservative.
Irrespective, the United States, and the world, rely on a reluctant, distracted, ideologically divided, uncivil, and substantially ignorant Congress to pass a farm bill during September. It won’t be easy. Differences are great, and good will is scarce. Yet if nothing is done the markets won’t like it, farmers will fail, food will become scarce. Starvation may become a threat not only in Africa and India and Latin America, but in the United States.
Republican “conservatives” can justly criticize Democrats and liberals for failing to deal with these problems. However it is the Republicans and “conservatives” who have driven these problems on. The primary fault of the Democrats and liberals on this complex of issues—as on several issues—is that they have failed to take the Republican “conservatives” to task. So far they are still failing.
Oh yes, and then there is an election on November 6, and Congress will try to explain its action or inaction on the farm bill to voters before then. May Congress have the best of luck in explaining that which congressmen do not understand themselves, about which they have purposely deceived themselves and their constituents, and about which they and their colleagues cannot agree.
A poll now shows Matt Varilek is within one point of Kristi Noem in South Dakota's sole Congressional district. This is the first poll I am aware of, and the conventional wisdom had considered the seat a GOP lock, although I had questioned that conclusion here before.
It looks like this is going to be a fight, and if this seat is a fight that bodes well for Democrats generally.