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). 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.
We’ve written about the outrageous sugar import quotas here many times. And Chris Edwards wrote in March about the American Sugar Alliance’s ad in the Washington Post titled “Big Candy’s Greed.” But we couldn’t link to the ad because for some reason the American Sugar Alliance has not chosen to put a version of the ad on its website. But the Alliance ran its expensive quarter-page ad in the Post last week, so we’re now able to provide the public service of making it available online.
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.
According to The Hill, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Rush Limbaugh that the Republican Party is “primarily” to blame for the growth in government dependency:
The federal food stamp program—now called SNAP—is attracting a lot of media coverage. One reason for thus is that the program’s costs have exploded—spending more than quadrupled during the Bush-Obama years to $82 billion in 2013 (see here and here p. 16). The Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations all took steps to loosen the purse strings on food stamp eligibility, and those changes have led to the ballooning costs of recent years during the stagnant economy.
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: