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.
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.
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed a farm bill with a projected price tag of $955 billion over ten years. As my colleague Sallie James explains, neither the Senate farm bill nor the House version offer up much in the way of real “reform.” And as Chris Edwards notes, both the Senate and House versions would spend more than the previous farm bill.
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). Introduced by Louisiana Republican David Vitter, the amendment has received condemnation from the left and at least one round of applause on the right.
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.
In a move that should surprise precisely no-one, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest lobby group for agriculture, this week endorsed an “everything for everyone, all the time” approach to farm policy.
The American Soybean Association (ASA) recently asked each of the presidential candidates to respond to a series of questions about agricultural policy issues. The questions covered farm bill and crop insurance, estate tax, biodiesel, biotechnology, trade, research, regulations, and transportation and infrastructure. The candidates’ responses (full text here) were not exactly models of courageous and principled policymaking.
Republicans are jumping on the news that participation in the food stamps program hit a new record of 46.7 million individuals in June (about one in seven Americans). In a sluggish economy, an increase in food stamps participation is to be expected. Thus, it’s fair to hold up the increase in food stamps usage as being emblematic of the Obama administration’s failed economic policies. In addition, the president’s 2009 “stimulus” bill increased benefits and eligibility.
Every five years or so, members of Congress from rural areas team up to push through a costly extension of farm programs. They are at it again this year. The Senate recently passed legislation to keep billions of dollars in subsidies flowing to farm businesses, and the House just passed a similarly bloated bill out of committee.