Farm Bill Flop

May 23, 2018

Last week, the House voted down passage of the 2018 farm bill. The bill would have reauthorized farm programs and food stamps at a 10-year cost of $867 billion. Democrats voted in a block against the bill because they opposed expanded work requirements for food stamps. A group of Republicans voted against it because they were frustrated by a lack of action on unrelated immigration legislation.

Few members objected that the bill was a budget buster, and would not have trimmed bloated spending on either farm or food subsidies. Federal deficits will soon top $1 trillion a year, and the projected growth in debt in coming years is unprecedented in American history. Subsidies of all sorts need to be cut.

We have two parties, and their members tend to fall on opposite sides of many issues, such as taxes, gun control, and abortion. Likewise, we would expect to have one pro-subsidy party and one anti-subsidy party. But we do not.

The alleged conservative party now in control of the government should be the anti-subsidy party, but big spenders dominate the Republican caucus. Politically, I think that is bad positioning for the GOP, as it leaves millions of fiscally conservative voters with nowhere to go. But we will see what happens in November.

Meanwhile, policymakers need to figure out next steps for the farm bill. I make suggestions in this new op-ed at The Hill.

For background on federal farm policies, see here.


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