Lead, follow or get out the way is an old saying that sums up what the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives needs to do on the farm bill.
In case you missed it, something amazing has happened during this time of hyper-partisanship in Washington. Under the leadership of Oklahoma's own Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and his Senate counterpart, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Democrats and Republicans have come together to craft policy designed to help address the challenges facing rural America over the next five years.
In June, senators from both parties voted 64-35 to move this important piece of legislation forward. The House Agriculture Committee soon followed suit under Lucas' leadership, passing a bill out of committee to the full house with a bipartisan vote of 35-11. While important differences exist between the versions of the bill, they're not so far apart that an agreement couldn't be reached with all this bipartisan support.
That's how legislation is supposed to work — both sides coming together, working out differences and reaching an agreement.
Unfortunately, things have hit a snag. As of this writing, House leadership has yet to schedule the farm bill for debate. The timing for this inaction couldn't be worse. If Congress fails to pass a new farm bill or extend the existing law by Sept. 30, the current law expires and the last permanent farm bill, which passed in 1949, takes effect. This would all happen at a time when the upper Midwest is facing a drought comparable to that experienced in Oklahoma and Texas last year and the southern Plains, never fully recovered from the dry conditions of 2011, are again slipping into extreme drought conditions.