Friday, April 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Bad farm bill, but could be worse

The tortured two-year path to a bipartisan farm bill — approved last week by the House and scheduled for a Senate vote this week — produced mediocre legislation that foolishly cuts a nutrition program for the needy, rebrands commodity subsidies as crop insurance and leaves unchanged the indefensible policy of lucrative supports for Big Sugar.

Sadly, it could have been worse. The nearly $1 trillion bill, the first farm bill since 2008, notably includes a 10-year, $8 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. The reduction is double what Senate Democrats had previously approved, but less than half of the $20 billion cut supported by House Speaker John Boehner or the irresponsible $39 billion advocated by some House Republicans.

Those numbers will be of little comfort to 850,000 households (none in Florida) that will lose as much as $90 worth of food stamps each month. The cuts likely will exacerbate the recent trend of end-of-the-month rushes on charity pantries and congregate feeding sites after previous food stamp cuts took effect in November. Congress should make fighting hunger a higher priority, and lawmakers shouldn't be tone deaf to the economics of the food stamp program that produces commerce for local grocers and mom-and-pop stores serving poor communities.

Overall, the conference committee bill reduces spending by $23 billion over the next decade and correctly ends direct payments to farmers, whether or not they grow crops. The alternative, however, also is problematic. The bill enhances crop insurance to provide government payments when yields are poor. Protecting the 2 million people affected by the food stamp cut would have been a far better use for some of the expected savings.

Worse, the bill continues the absurdly favorable treatment for the sugar industry, which routinely spends millions of dollars on campaign contributions and Washington lobbyists and then taps taxpayer pockets to clean up its pollution in the Everglades. The status quo of convoluted tariffs, quotas and buybacks benefits large sugar beet and cane producers but costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for excess crops while consumers simultaneously pay higher prices for domestically produced food. Where is the fairness in that? Lawmakers who want to get serious about cutting federal spending should start by ending sugar subsidies.

One caveat in the bill directly benefits Florida and other citrus-growing states by allocating $125 million to find a cure for citrus greening, the fruit-damaging disease affecting crops in 10 states and threatening the long-term health of Florida's $9-billion-a-year citrus industry. It's a sensible investment, the kind of compromise this bill could have used more of to better put the needs of the public ahead of the wants of special interests.

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Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Natureís Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. ē The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region wonít make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Floridaís citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nationís health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18