1.  Can someone please explain the farm bill fight?

I’m a news junkie. But I am completely clueless about one policy issue that is hugely important (it affects what we eat and how much we pay for it), involves hundreds of billions of dollars in government programs and subsidies, and was splashed all over the front pages last week as the latest example of congressional dysfunction.

I’m referring, of course, to America’s farm policy (that’s farm, not foreign) and what last week’s headlines called “the farm bill.”

What is the farm bill? I know it has to do with paying subsidies to farmers for something, enforcing price supports (whatever that means) on some crops or commodities, funding food stamps, and implementing a bunch of other programs supposedly to help the farming economy. But that’s all I know, and I bet that’s all a lot of you know.

This front page New York Times story is so typical of how the mainstream media has covered the farm bill fight that one could start to believe theories that if a story is playing out between the two coasts (where most farms are), most editors and reporters must think it’s not worth worrying about. The Times story refers to the “farm bill” repeatedly, but the paper apparently assumes either that I already know what it is or that I don’t care, because it never describes it. Instead, the focus is all about Washington — the political fallout over the farm bill, whatever it is, being stalled in Congress following a bitter split in Republican ranks.

In fact, to the extent that this and other coverage has delved into the substance of the bill, it’s been mostly about the one part of it that has nothing to do with farming — the food stamp program.