Well, this is awkward. OK, not really. Because despite the fact that a mooted Ex-Im loan will help my homeland (or, more precisely, a company based in my homeland), it is still not ok.
Earlier this month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that without a new farm bill to replace the 2008 farm bill, the USDA would not have the authority or the funds to continue paying the $147m per year bribe we had settled with Brazil in 2010 as part of a trade deal.
It’s that time again; time for supporters of trade liberalisation to question the value of enhanced training and welfare programs for those who lose their jobs because of import competition, and for trade-skeptics to ask why we need trade liberalization at all.
The “new” farm bill (with food stamps jettisoned because “conservatives” object to what they see as lavish welfare spending) passed the House today on strictly partisan terms, 216-208 (roll call), with a mere 12 brave Republicans voting no.
It appears that I spoke too soon. According to a news article from Chris Clayton, one of America’s best agriculture reporters, the new House farm bill, due to be voted on today, will not necessarily be the gift to reformers I thought it might. The key paragraph of Chris’s story:
The Roll Call blog has just broken news that the GOP House leadership has decided to drop food stamps from the farm bill, in an attempt to get the farm subsidies passed by the House, presumably with Republican votes alone. Nutrition is quite an “appendage” to jettison, by the way: it usually accounts for about 80 percent of all “farm bill” spending. Here’s a great infographic on food stamp usage from the Wall Street Journal online.
The Wall Street Journal has a largely terrific editorial today on the wasteful, inefficient, distortionary and unconstitutional Ex-Im Bank. I say “largely” because the editorial is rather meek in its recommendations, calling for “more oversight” and “limits” on the bank’s operations, rather than outright disbandment. But it’s a start, and might lend some momentum to legislative efforts to terminate the bank entirely.
Last week, farming and some conservation groups announced that they had come to a deal to link eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies to compliance with conservation measures. In return, in one of the great sell-outs in modern times, the conservation groups agreed not to push for payment limits or means testing on farm subsidies.
The American Sugar Alliance, the main lobby group for American sugar growers, released a report last week alleging that the subsidies given to Brazilian sugar growers are depressing the world price of sugar perhaps by 25 to 30 percent. But instead of thanking the Brazilian taxpayers for their gift of cheap sugar, apparently the ASA are suggesting that U.S. trade negotiators “add it to their agenda”, implying that they should challenge the subsidies using the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement mechanism.
As if U.S. agriculture isn’t subsidized enough already. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) visited a hops yard yesterday to raise the profile of, and inevitably seek federal support for, what he hopes will be New York’s first commercial hops yard. In the second subtitle of his press release, Senator Schumer sings the praises of NY’s “booming craft beer industry” and yet simultaneously makes the somewhat contradictory claim that the industry suffers from a lack of capital: