DO COWS REALLY CARE what time the clock says when they're being milked, or is it a case of the milker caring more than the milkee? Every other year or so, Congress considers legislation to allow more than the current six months of daylightsaving time--and every time the farmers and their cows are cited as reasons not to give up another minute of standard time. But this year, the House has passed a bill--a perfectly reasonable modification of the current arrangement--that would extend daylight-saving time for an additional two months every year by starting it on the first Sunday in March instead of the last Sunday in April.

Supporters of this change note that having another hour of daylight in the afternoons of March and April would not only allow more time for outdoor work and recreation, but would also result in some energy savings because less electricity would be used. In urban areas, the light at the end of the day is also popular with people who don't particularly enjoy going home from work in the twilight or dark.

The change would make sunrise an hour later, but by March this wouldn't put schoolchildren out the door in the dark, except possibly in the westernmost sections of each time zone, and only then for a matter of days. Backers of the bill also say the change in March would not result in any increase in traffic fatalities for schoolchildren. And any state could exempt itself from daylight-saving time for the whole summer.

Whether more daylight in the afternoon would actually save approximately 100,000 barrels of oil a day, as claimed, is difficult to know without a trial, but 243 members of the House voted to give the change a try. They may have seen opinion polls, cited by backer of the bill, that show the public favoring the change by a 2-to-1 margin. Or they may have recognized this year's bill as the most sensible one on a subject that by now is wasting more congressional time than it should. With Senate approval, a harmless, popular change could take effect next year.