We have to presort our trash here in Kansas City so we have three trash cans in our garage. One is for previously defined recyclables, another is for previously defined garbage and the third is a catchall for everything that hasn't been previously defined. The first two cans have to be set out on the street late Sunday for Monday morning pick up.
So here's the Sunday evening ritual: "Hey, honey what's this and which can do we toss it in?"
"I have no idea, Put it in that third container."
So, over the course of several weeks, that third container gets filled to the brim with all kinds of undefined stuff because we can't make a decision about where those things really belong.
Does that remind you of the farm bill? Over the years it grew with things that were made part of it 'just because.' I was reminded of the trash can analogy when I was browsing through 'Beyond the Farm Bill,' a website powered by organically minded foodies. One of their comments struck me as completely sensible even if much of the rest of the information I found there didn't pass muster: "The Farm Bill was designed to reign in price volatility, manage supply and protect nature while providing vital nutrition programs for the country’s poor. Instead, it’s been ravaged by constant corporate assault and a Congress too emboldened with industry money to stand up for our best interests."
"Providing vital nutrition programs for the nation's poor" was redefined last year and split off from the farm bill to stand on its own. It should have been fairly easy, then, to look at the real farming issues that were left and pass the remaining bill on its own merits - or demerits, if that's you political bent. The problem, of course, is we're talking about a Congress whose only notable achievement was an almost total lack of achievement. The House and Senate could give expert lessons on grid locking to everyone involved in the George Washington Bridge scandal. At least a few cars per minute were allowed to cross over to the other side, unlike anything trapped inside the Beltway.
The problem is the special interests groups lining up outside every congressperson's office to offer their heart-felt pleas for special consideration and their 'assistance' in the next election cycle remind me of the photos of all those cars trying to get out of Ft. Lee last year. There is a traffic jam of incredible proportions. Many of those groups are at odds with each other, leaving our elected officials at a loss as to whom they should sell their souls.
The farm bill seems like it might become a victim of yet another 'continuing resolution' until the auctioning of elected officials' votes is done, giving a broader meaning to the term 'sale barn.' The latest best guess from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) is final action won't happen until late January. In fact, the committee meeting is not expected to happen until at least January 27.
To fully understand who stands for what, though, is it time to break up the farm bill again and redefine what goes into each container? Do we need one bill to manage price volatility, another to protect nature, etc. etc. etc.? Or if we have to accept that Washington is incapable of passing one bill after several years of wrangling, is offering up half-a-dozen in its place a fool's errand?
By the way, that promised Monday morning pickup? It usually doesn't happen until Monday afternoon.