Contrary to popular belief, compromise isn’t a dirty word in politics.
Generally speaking, it’s the only way to achieve any legislative outcome. The farm bill, approved this week by both houses of Congress, several months after it originally expired, proved that this forgotten art can yield success in Washington.
This piece of legislation typically served as an exercise in give a little, get a little. Because there was something in there for everyone — farm safety net for rural areas and food assistance in urban areas — its passage was rarely politicized or even in doubt until recent iterations.
Two years past its initial expiration date and two failed House votes later, the 2012 farm bill was passed — in 2014. Assuming the president signs the 2018 version into law, at least this farm bill was passed in the right calendar year despite an unrelated House fight over immigration torpedoing the initial measure back in May.
It’s worth noting that once the provisions meant to appeal strictly to hard-line partisans were removed, the farm bill passed easily.
Take the most controversial portion: increased work requirements for Americans seeking nutrition assistance. Once that passage, which led every Democrat to vote against the initial bill in May, disappeared from the final bill, it passed the House overwhelmingly. That’s no coincidence.
What resulted strikes the Journal Star editorial board as an acceptable piece of standalone legislation. Was it perfect? No. Nobody got everything they wanted. But nobody left entirely empty-handed, either.
That was evident in the reactions of Nebraska’s congressional delegation, as each member highlighted different aspects of the bill. Crop insurance, food safety, renewable fuels, research funding, trade promotion and a livestock vaccine bank, among others, were all hailed as important achievements for Nebraska.
One common refrain was stability for the state’s leading industry, agriculture. The passage of this $867 billion behemoth was vital to provide some clarity for the farmers and ranchers who have seen their incomes halved this decade and futures affected by property taxes and trade uncertainty.
In the end, finding a palatable solution to benefit these Nebraskans, these Americans, is far more important than the politics that derailed the bill once before.
Times have changed since the 2014 farm bill was belatedly approved. Accordingly, the United States’ most important piece of legislation related to agriculture and food programs needed to be updated, even though it took until the lame-duck session to be accomplished.
We encourage Congress to ditch the partisan brinkmanship and missed deadlines. Instead, they're better served by heading straight to the middle ground — it’s more productive there, as we were reminded once again by this week’s progress on the farm bill.