The continuing lack of progress on a new farm bill is starting to smack members of Congress, particularly Republicans, as they return home for the weekend.
The Senate has passed a bill and so has the House Agriculture Committee. So far, though, Republican leaders in the House have declined to bring the measure to the floor, even as the drought turns crops across the country to ashes.
The Hill has a great story on the problem. In essence: conservatives and tea party members hate the bill, which they think spends too much on food stamps. Mainstream conservative organizations are hammering the crop support parts of the bill as welfare for the rich, and worse.
Liberals hate the cuts to food stamps and subsidies for corporate farms. Corn and wheat growers hate the rice and cotton guys, and vice versa. And no one is fond of a bill that will cost roughly as much over ten years as Obamacare (without Obamacare's tax increases to cover the cost.)
"It's very difficult," Rep. Vicky Hartzler said Friday after a campaign event in Belton. "You have different regions of the country, different commodities, and then different philosophies."
So the bill languishes, the sun bakes the ground, and dysfunction in Congress grows.
Hartzler said Republican leaders were testing the water Thursday for a one-year extension of the current farm bill, which expires Sept. 30., with a little drought relief added in. That could come up next week.
Or the can could be kicked even farther down the road.
With all that, Hartzler -- whose own family has received more than $750,000 in farm payments over the years -- isn't ready to completely abandon the intricate system of set-asides, quotas, insurance subsidies, and other market-manipulating tools that are the farm bill.
"It's a good balance at this point," Hartzler said, referring to the House committee bill. "It still retains the safety net of crop insurance and some other programs in difficult times."
Why do farmers need an income safety net that doesn't exist for almost any other business?
"It's a food security issue. Americans enjoy the lowest food prices in the world...because there's a stable, secure food supply."