House and Senate negotiators are working out details of a big farm bill that may pass this year. No industry in America is as coddled as farming, and no industry is as centrally planned from Washington. The federal sugar program is perhaps the most Soviet of all. Here’s a sketch of the sugar program, which the supposedly conservative, tea party-dominated lower chamber may soon ratify:
Farm bills traditionally contain both farm subsidies and food subsidies (e.g., food stamps). Unable to pass a traditional farm bill passed this year, the House Republican leadership separated the two components. The House passed a stand-alone farm subsidy bill in the summer and now it’s set to vote on a bill that would trim the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a.k.a., food stamps) by $39 billion over ten years.
Bloomberg has a series out on the federal government’s crop insurance program, which cost taxpayers $14 billion in 2012. The articles, which reveal a textbook example of politicians and special interests teaming up to pilfer taxpayers, should be read in their entirety.
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.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office says that although the USDA has gotten better at not paying out farm subsidies to dead farmers, it’s still forking out millions of dollars to the dearly taxpayer-dependent departed:
Whenever Republicans attempt to cut spending for some social welfare program or another, Democrats are quick to claim that it is not unaffordable spending that the Republicans dislike, but poor people. By passing the farm bill this week — after stripping out spending for the food stamp program — House Republicans showed that that stereotype is largely true.
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.
It has become a set piece of political theater for liberal Democrats, carried out in recent weeks by everyone from New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner to Connecticut senator Chris Murphy and a bevy of congressmen: attempting to eat on the $4.50-per-day food budget supposedly provided by the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program formerly known as “food stamps.” While always good for a headline, and generally accompanied by amusing photographs of the bizarre meals the politicians cobble together on their meager budget, the so-called SNAP challenge is also arrant nonsense.