This time ought to be the charm for the landmark Farm Bill which cleared the U.S. Senate Monday with key provisions adding agriculture jobs and bolstering nutrition in the school lunch program.
About 16 million jobs, many in Washington state will be created by the five-year measure setting federal food and farming policy for the next decade. This Times editorial praised two important proposals by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. The first would add peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans to school cafeteria menus.
The second would drive $25 million in research of “pulse crops,” essentially lentils, chickpeas and other legumes. Research into the crops’ effect on obesity and chronic diseases adds an important public health benefit.
“The bipartisan passage of this Farm Bill is a win-win for Washington state: it means jobs for our agriculture producers and keeps our students healthy and ready to learn,” Cantwell said in a statement following the Senate vote.
The legislation will cost about $100 billion annually. It is a huge sum to be sure, but thoughtful restraint led the Senate to enact efficient changes, including eliminating subsidies paid to farmers whether they farm or not. A $4 billion cut in the $80 billion federal food stamp program over the next decade is painful. The House has threatened to quadruple the Senate’s cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; lawmakers should not.
Speaking of that other chamber, House members are expected to take up the bill next week. Washington’s entire delegation should fight any effort to repeat last year’s implosion over a 2012 version of the bill. The political winds are blowing against Republican intransigence. The Senate’s bipartisan 66-27 roll call vote exceeded last year’s political margin with 18 Republicans joining Democrats this time around. Speaker John Boehner should take the vote as a sign that some in his party want to get the Farm Bill done and move on. Boehner should help them.