Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: 6 reasons Floridians should pay attention to farm bill negotiations

Floridians should follow the farm bill negotiations this summer in Congress. Farm bills are typically dry discussions about reauthorizing a vast array of programs every five years, ranging from farm subsidies to agricultural research to food programs for the poor. The legislation generally generates little controversy. But like everything else in Washington, there is nothing normal about these negotiations and normal assumptions in areas ranging from flood insurance to food stamps to the environment are at risk. Here are six reasons Floridians should pay attention as Senate and House negotiators work out a final farm bill before the end of September:

1. Flood insurance. This generally isn’t an issue in the farm bill, but the federal flood insurance program will expire July 31 unless Congress acts quickly. Sen. Marco Rubio helped add a six-month extension of the flood insurance program to the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill, and that is the best option at this point.

If Congress misses the deadline, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would stop selling and renewing policies across Florida and the nation in the middle of hurricane season. The House approved a flood insurance bill in November, but it includes some provisions that are unacceptable. One would lead to even larger annual premium increases on homes built at least 43 years ago, including thousands of middle income Tampa Bay homes. The flood insurance program needs an overhaul, but the best option now is to keep it alive as is and leave the issue for the next Congress to tackle.

2. Food stamps. The House farm bill passed without a single Democratic vote, and for good reason. House Republicans added punitive work requirements for low-income Americans on food stamps, which help 5 million to 7 million people who can’t afford to feed themselves. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates 400,000 households that now get benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could lose benefits, and that’s unacceptable. The Senate farm bill does not include the work requirements but adds provisions to fight fraud, the best approach.

3. Pesticides. The House farm bill would ban local governments from adopting pesticide restrictions that are stronger than the federal government restrictions. That is another assault on home rule, and Senate negotiators should not accept it.

4. Environmental programs. The House bill would phase out the Conservation Stewardship Program, often described as the largest conservation effort for working farms. It provides grants to farmers to address issues such as improving water quality, protecting and enhancing topsoil to reduce erosion and flooding, and preserving wildlife habitat. The House cuts conservation spending by nearly $1 billion while the Senate largely preserves conservation spending. Negotiators should not blow up environmental programs that work.

5. Citrus greening. Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson successfully pushed to add $125 million into the Senate bill to continue the fight against citrus greening. The disease has led to a steep drop in Florida’s citrus production.

6. Sugar supports. Just kidding. Neither the Senate nor the House found the courage to include in their farm bills the Sugar Modernization Act that finally would have ended the indefensible government bailouts of the sugar industry. The House rejected the amendment in May, with just three of Florida’s 27 House members voting for the amendment — none from Tampa Bay. The Senate never even took the issue up before passing its farm bill last week. Big Sugar wins again.

Comments

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18

Column: We’re measuring the economy all wrong

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Bros., the official economic statistics — the ones that fill news stories, television shows and presidential tweets — say that the U.S. economy is fully recovered.The unemployment rate is lower tha...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectation’’ is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Stalled U.S.-Cuba relations hurting Florida business

Editorial: Stalled U.S.-Cuba relations hurting Florida business

After an encouraging start, the breakdown in America’s reset with Cuba is a loss for both sides and for the state of democracy across the region. Havana and Washington are both to blame, but the Trump administration’s hard line with Cuba is out of sy...
Published: 09/12/18
Lessons from Moonves’ ouster

Lessons from Moonves’ ouster

If the swift departure of CBS Chairman Les Moonves has a bright side, it’s that a major television network took accusations of sexual harassment against its chief executive seriously enough to hold him accountable and obtain his resignation even at t...
Published: 09/11/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Banks should not shut down campaign accounts for marijuana ties

Editorial: Banks should not shut down campaign accounts for marijuana ties

Two banks have taken the retaliatory step of closing down the campaign account of a statewide candidate because she received contributions from the medical marijuana industry. Nikki Fried, the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner, has been...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/14/18