It’s a good thing that the farm bill failed to pass the House, but it is disturbing that about three-quarters of Republicans voted in favor of this massive spending bill. The House bill would have spent 47 percent more over 10 years than the 2008 farm bill ($940 billion vs. $640 billion). Most of the spending is for food stamps, so GOP farm bill supporters would have essentially ratified the recent huge spending increases on this welfare program.
Congress is gearing up to pass a major farm bill for the first time since 2008, and this year’s bill threatens to be much larger than the last one.
Farm subsidies make political sense for many members of Congress. But they make no practical sense because they damage the economy, hurt the environment, and are grossly unfair.
So in the hopes that the practical will prevail over the political, here are 10 reasons why both the House and Senate should go back to the drawing board with their legislation:
It’s widely accepted that George W. Bush was a big-spending president. He was a social conservative, but not a fiscal one. To his credit, however, even Bush recognized how wasteful and unfair farm subsidies are, and he vetoed the last major farm bill in 2008.
That bill “would needlessly expand the size and scope of government,” he said in his veto message. Unfortunately, Congress overrode Bush’s veto and the 2008 farm bill became law at an estimated taxpayer cost of $640 billion over 10 years.
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed a farm bill with a projected price tag of $955 billion over ten years.
During the House Agriculture Committee’s debate over a new farm bill, Tennessee Republican Stephen Fincher cited 2 Thessalonians 3:10 in defending relatively small cuts in food stamps after Rep. Juan Vargas’s (D-CA) cited Jesus’s call to feed the hungry:
“For also, when we were with you, this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat.”
Cato held a packed forum on Capitol Hill yesterday examining major farm legislation that is moving through Congress. Our panelists included Andrew Moylan of R Street, Josh Sewell of Taxpayers for Common Sense, and Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group.
Debate on the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the next farm bill will begin in the Republican-controlled chamber in June. One of the most contentious issues will be spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, a.k.a, food stamps). The House Ag bill would cut SNAP spending by $20.5 billion over 10 years versus the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline. That’s too much for Democrats and it might be too little for conservative Republicans.
Last week, the Senate accepted by unanimous consent an amendment to the pending farm bill that would ban convicted murderers, rapists, and pedophiles from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (a.k.a. food stamps).
House and Senate farm subsidy supporters are pushing to enact the first big farm bill since 2008. Democratic and Republican supporters say that this year’s legislation will be a reform bill that cuts spending. Hogwash.