Farm Bill Passes House

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The “new” farm bill (with food stamps jettisoned because “conservatives” object to what they see as lavish welfare spending) – you know, the one I was kinda for before I was against– passed the House today on strictly partisan terms, 216-208 (roll call), with a mere 12 brave Republicans voting no. The bill passed under a “closed rule,” which meant that no amendments could be made to improve the thing. The bill will ostensibly “save” $12 billion over 10 years, but the savings will likely be eaten up by new crop insurance provisions. In any event, the bill saves less than the Senate farm bill, and less than the Obama administration proposed. If you want to think in simplistic terms, this bill–proposed byRepublicans, remember– is fiscally to the left of the Senate Democrats’ and President Obama’s proposals (here’s more on that). I guess welfare is ok if it is for farmers and other rural dwellers.

While the bill included the welcome repeal of the 1938 and 1949 permanent laws that force farm bills upon us every five years (lest we return to worse policy provisions), it effectively makes the new Title 1, which covers “commodity programs” (a euphemism for farm welfare), permanent. There are no means testing requirements for subsidies, and the bill includes new target price programs that could leave the taxpayer worse off than they are currently, and the United States in jeopardy of breaching internationally-agreed upon limits on agricultural support. There goes our credibility in urging others to “play by the rules” of world trade.

While it is unclear what future awaits this bill (it will be difficult to reconcile with the Senate bill, which includes food stamps), it is certainly not an improvement. If this is the new normal, then we’re in trouble. Shame on the House GOP leadership for promoting this thing, and passing it under dubious circumstances.