So we're sitting in the office eating supper and watching the House floor action via C-SPAN. We're lucky that we can do so. Many rural areas don't have broadband, and the USDA broadband loan program has spent a whole lot of money subsidizing internet access in not-so-rural places already being served. Supposedly, both the House and the Senate are going to address this problem in the farm bill. I hope so.
We're eating food from the Depot, a local restaurant operated by a retired couple, who are obviously not all that retired. They've had a for sale sign in their window for at least a year, since I moved here. I think they're finally going out of business in a couple of weeks.
This weekend I will be doing some research on downtown Lyons in an effort to place our downtown on the Historic Register. We are trying to save our Opera House, the most architecturally signifcant building in Lyons and the visual anchor of our downtown. It has been vacant for more than 20 years, and the roof is falling in. We have some barricades around the building because the brick wall is falling down.
During our annual community festival (Bluegrass Days), the population of Lyons went up at least 25% for a couple days. It was something to see. I haven't lived here all that long, and for the first time I could envision a thriving, prosperous Lyons. Most of those who came used to live here. Now they don't, because there are no jobs.
During the floor debate so far, several lawmakers have said this farm bill is about supporting rural America. Maybe they really believe it. And several have said that this farm bill is a "first step" towards some sort of nebulous reform, so everyone should vote for it. It seems we've taken that "first step" many times. When is the last step taken? Farm bill only come around once every five years. How many farm bills do we have to go through to get real payment limits and a serious investment in rural economic development? When will we stop investing in mega-farms and start investing in the future of Lyons, Nebraska?
The Center for Rural Affairs has been fighting for legislation that could help revitalize rural America for decades. We have been fighting to say, once and for all, that the farm bill is about helping small and mid-sized farms and rural communities. Period. You can't do that while you're sending million dollar subsidy checks out the door to mega-farms that drive their neighbors out of business. This farm bill in the House will keep those checks flowing. So don't tell me about "necessary" compromises. Of all groups interested in the farm bill, rural America and family farmers have received the least benefit from it for decades, and the current House farm bill won't change that.
This is why we get angry. These legislators get up and talk about how the farm bill is about supporting rural America and family farmers. There is probably things in the farm bill that do so. We need more policy designed to support rural communities, and the values they hold. A lot more. Those rural values are the backbone of this country. But the principle of supporting true family farms and rural communities is lost in the "compromises" that always occur come farm bill time. We need policy designed to support rural communities. We are not compromising on our principles. And we never will.