The farm bill, when passed by the Senate last week, landed with a plop, a cow patty on the meadow of responsible governance. Few observers of federal government found anything redeeming from the legislative largesses the bill bestow on already-wealthy “farmers.”

Because the farm bill isn’t just about farms. It’s also about nutrition policies and low-income assistance programs, like food stamps. Leading into the Senate’s vote, there was a rallying cry from Maine to approve some form of the bill, to ensure more than 164,000 of us would have the means to afford food.

The prospect of starving constituents is unpalatable. What’s worse, though, is using them as chattel to negotiate subsidies for wealthy farmers. There’s no reason for Mainers to potentially go hungry, while policies are deliberated for the benefit states, and people, far across the plains. Yet, they still are.

This is because the farm bill is planted in the social welfare polices of the 1930s and the 1960s, when bumper crops from America’s farmers were utilized to feed America’s poor. During the current deliberations, the bill has been derided as “antiquated” and out of touch with a modern farmer’s needs.

Yet like an antique scythe honed to a razor’s edge, the farm bill might be old, but it’s still a sharp farming implement. The political power of America’s farmers and their representatives, once their crops were earmarked for anti-poverty programs, grew too great to combat.

Corporate mega-farms don’t need subsidies afforded by the farm bill. Neither do Manhattanites masquerading as agriculturists. More than these, however, crucial low-income programs and nutrition initiatives shouldn’t be dependent on swallowing these distasteful payouts.

It’s time to cut up the farm bill, to separate the social programs from the subsidies. Although the two issues were intertwined in the rooted history of the legislation, their continued co-dependence now works only to protect unneeded subsidies and political power, instead of vulnerable people.

“Much-needed increases in food and nutrition programs for our nation’s low-income families should not, however, be tied to the billions of dollars in agriculture subsidies,” says Sen. Susan Collins, who laudably voted against the farm bill, while co-sponsoring an amendment to cut farming subsidies.

Maine, however, perhaps needs the poverty assistance programs more than farming subsidies. It’s done without the latter; it cannot survive without the former. Leaving them tied together is irrational.

The House of Representatives takes up the farm bill next. Some have equated the bill to a gluttonous pig, given all the pork it contains. Well, there’s only one thing to do with a fattened hog.

Take it to the slaughter.


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