Congress is getting closer to passing the $1 trillion farm bill, and it is a piece of work

posted at 6:41 pm on June 4, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

The current farm bill expires at the end of September, and both the House and Senate have been working on their own respective versions of a new package for the next decade. The Senate side is working for final passage on their bill before the end of the week, since Harry Reid is looking to move on to immigration next week, and the legislation looks a little something like this:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will cost taxpayers $963 billion over the next 10 years. About 80 percent of this money will go to nutrition assistance programs, such as food stamps, for the needy. The rest of the money will pay for other provisions, primarily crop insurance subsidies for farmers as well as conservation, renewable energy and other agriculture programs. …

Some other changes in this year’s farm bill include increased support and funding for community farmers’ markets to promote Americans eating more locally grown food. It also includes programs designed to encourage younger Americans to enter into farming as a profession. …

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that this bill will lower spending at the Department of Agriculture by $13.1 billion mostly by eliminating direct payments to farmers. The bill also includes provisions aimed at eliminating waste and fraud in the food assistance programs. Senate Democrats expect these provisions to eliminate billions in spending, but the CBO estimates that there will be little to no reduction in the food assistance program.

Well, CBO, that makes two of us. Despite the Obama administration’s continual insistence that the economy is on the mend, the USDA’s food-stamp program has exploded by approximately 70 percent since 2008 alone. There are a record of almost 49 million Americans on food stamps these days, both because the Obama administration’s persistent relaxation of the program’s requirements and because of the administration’s failure to move-and-shake the economy out of stagnation mode with their directly counterproductive big-government policies. And, forgive me, but nor do I think that saving $13 billion over ten years out of the USDA’s almost $150 billion annual budget is anything to get too excited about. ‘Hey, we’re increasing spending, but by less than we might have, huzzah!’ …No.

However wishfully they tout the supposed and projected savings, there’s still plenty of free market-convoluting and special interest-serving pork-ishness going on in that other 20 percent of the bill; as Daren Bakst explains at Heritage, the entire exercise of passing a gigantic and all-encompassing farm bill is egregiously political. Doing so allows a bunch of its provisions and amendments to escape individual scrutiny, all the better for funneling taxpayer money to a thriving agribusiness sector that really doesn’t need the special treatment:

There’s no legitimate policy reason to combine these distinct programs. Food stamps continue to be included in the farm bill “purely from a political perspective,” Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, recently explained. “It helps get the farm bill passed.”

One of the most important reforms would be to separate these programs into two different bills. This would make it more likely to get reform of agriculture policy, instead of politicians using these different issues with their different interest groups to maintain the status quo.

The farm programs are often thought of as a safety net for small farmers. This also isn’t reality. About 75 percent of larger farms with incomes of $250,000 to $999,999 receive government subsidies. Only 24 percent of small farms with incomes from $10,000 to $249,999 get them.

The programs are also less about providing safety nets and more about maintaining high-levels of prosperity. Agriculture is a high-tech and innovative sector of the economy. Unlike most sectors, it’s a booming industry. Net farm income (what farmers earn after expenses) is at its highest levels in 40 years. Commodity prices are also at record highs. Congress shouldn’t ignore the condition of agriculture as it develops a new farm bill.

Agricultural and related legislation, however, has always been really quite impressive in its ability to drum up bipartisan support, since Congresspeople from both red and blue rural states and regions have various farm lobbies exerting pressure to maintain their niche benefits. This year, however, expect the Democrats to be especially defensive of preserving the farm bill’s [lack of] integrity:

Senate Democrats hope to pass a five-year farm bill this week and bolster their appeal with rural voters, who they see as crucial to retaining their majority in 2014.

Democrats have stepped up their outreach to rural constituencies this year as they head into a daunting midterm election year with a slew of seats in conservative-leaning rural states to defend. …

Agriculture is a major industry in Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas and North Carolina, four states that are huge GOP targets next year. Montana and South Dakota are open seats following the announced retirements of Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). Meanwhile, Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are two of the chamber’s most vulnerable incumbents.

Other rural states where Democrats face competitive races are Alaska, Louisiana, New Hampshire and West Virginia.

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The Government Party of Repubicrats lines up at the trough.



Resist We Much on June 4, 2013 at 6:45 PM

50 million people and counting on food stamps.

I think we’re going to need a bigger farm bill.

Bishop on June 4, 2013 at 6:50 PM

About 80 percent of this money will go to nutrition assistance programs, such as food stamps, for the needy.

Nutrition assistance? Like how people can use EBT cards to buy potato chips, popcorn, soda, candy, cakes, cookies, and all other manner of junk food? But a kid in school can have his egg salad sandwich from home confiscated by an administrator and be forced to instead have to eat government-mandated chicken nuggets. And only 800 calories’ worth, at that!

‘Nutrition assistance’ my azz.

Liam on June 4, 2013 at 6:51 PM

Crikey! How did we get to this point? And when can we start talking about splitting the country into two? Enquiring minds want to know!

SailorMark on June 4, 2013 at 6:51 PM

Does it provide MarcoPhones and/or ObamaPhones for illegals and/or minorities?

Pork-Chop on June 4, 2013 at 6:54 PM

When seconds count school admins are just minutes away:

The vice principal called MacLean’s mother, Leah O’Donnell, saying that her son was involved in an incident where “he decided to ‘play hero’ and jump in.” The vice principal added that the school did not “condone heroics,” and that the proper course of action would have been to get a school administrator to handle it.

O’Donnell said, “I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point.”

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davidk on June 4, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Grow stuff, sell it, make money.

The only money our government should give to farmers is if they have a year or two of bad weather and need some money to survive until they can grow something again.

Hey, I wonder if they legalize pot, if pot farmers will start getting subsidies?

And as to the “nutrition assistance”… That should be administered by a completely separate entity: “The Department of Support for the Incompetent, Disabled and the Lazy”. In fact get rid of the U.S.Department of Agriculture. Leave the occasionally actually useful bit of work that they do to State agencies.

LegendHasIt on June 4, 2013 at 7:00 PM

As long as we have a Farm Bill, we’ll have a Welfare State.
Can’t deprive those farmers of their winter vacations in the Bahamas now, can we?

Another Drew on June 4, 2013 at 7:02 PM

The one truly great “black mark” on the Gingrich Revolution was the complete and abject failure to make reform of Ag Supports stick.
All those purported independent farmers were too used to sucking on the public teat and didn’t want to have to put up or shut up.

Another Drew on June 4, 2013 at 7:04 PM

It just never stops.

JellyToast on June 4, 2013 at 7:06 PM

I am not a big fan of Tom Coburn but I saw part of his Senate time today where one by one he brought up amendments that outlines fraud, outlined duplication, outlined waste, etc. Each time either Landreu or Stabenow stood up to object.

He offered a compromise and to get the Senate to go back to the way the Senate used to do business and each time THEY PASSED. He offered it more than once.

He also called both parties out as to not wanting to take the hard vote and they are hiding in their offices.

I’ll give it to him. On this issue, he’s spot on here as he has been for years.

CoffeeLover on June 4, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Nice to see that the Sequester isn’t inhibiting America’s ability to burn money.

Cicero43 on June 4, 2013 at 7:07 PM

The never ending purchasing of votes and “campaign contributions” with the grandkid’s money. Ain’t government wonderful!

VorDaj on June 4, 2013 at 7:08 PM

Forward !!

VorDaj on June 4, 2013 at 7:11 PM

this is crap, the small farmers (that are the rural voters) can use local co-ops and their bankers to fund crop insurance, the rest is corporate welfare and subsidies to non-producing tracts to rig prices. De-link ag from welfare, it is a 4:1 sop to welfare dressed as farm assistance

DanMan on June 4, 2013 at 7:13 PM

the USDA’s food-stamp program has exploded by approximately 70 percent since 2008 alone.

That’s incredible. Incredibly bad.

Where’s the concern from the Left? There isn’t any. Why?

visions on June 4, 2013 at 7:15 PM

Teach a man to fish, and you hate poor people.

How’s that fiscal responsibility working out for you, Republicans?

madmonkphotog on June 4, 2013 at 7:19 PM

‘Nutrition assistance’ my azz.

Liam on June 4, 2013 at 6:51 PM

I hear ya.

About six weeks ago during the gun grab push, the left trotted out the phrase ‘gun safety’ for the gun control legislation.

I’ll be sad to see these cretins’ demise. But barely.

socalcon on June 4, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Does it provide MarcoPhones and/or ObamaPhones for illegals and/or minorities?

Pork-Chop on June 4, 2013 at 6:54 PM

If it’s like past farm bills (and sadly, it is), it budgets millions of dollars to advertise — in Mexico and in Spanish — the availability of U.S. food stamps to Mexicans who come to the U.S. illegally.

But hey, it would be raaaaaacist for U.S. taxpayers not to pick up the monthly grocery tab for millions of Mexicans (and El Salvadorans, and Guatemalans, and Haitians, etc.) living in the U.S. illegally, right?

AZCoyote on June 4, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Am I probably looking wrong so help me understand better please.

So doing governmental math over 10 years:
$150B Budgeted – $13B Cut + $831B Spending = $968 in Savings????
(Not that they have any budget to go by or a reason to add food stamps into a farm bill)

Am I looking at this all wrong? Your patience is appreciated.

wubu on June 4, 2013 at 7:28 PM

Have I overlooked our resident (D)s decrying corporate welfare on this thread?

rogerb on June 4, 2013 at 7:46 PM

Its just a larded up food stamp funding bill.

tom daschle concerned on June 4, 2013 at 7:47 PM

Even calling it the “farm bill” doesn’t reflect reality. Both the Senate and House versions are projected to cost close to $1 trillion over 10 years. Nearly 80 percent of this cost is attributed to food stamps and nutrition programs. The bill should be called the “food stamp” bill.


Its just typical stupid larded up garbage from the pathetic progs. Santy Clause!

tom daschle concerned on June 4, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Just for all of you morons bitching about paying farmers, please realize that only a tiny portion of this bill goes to farmers, with the majority of that funding crop insurance. Realize that a farmer will have huge outlays to put the crop into the ground, just hoping that the weather will cooperate to produce a crop. If those farmers have a bad year without insurance they will be unable to continue on producing the next year. Certainly some big organization, perhaps supported by a foreign entity would replace them, but at not near the care and efficiency of a local farmer.

I, along with most taxpayers are outraged by this bill, but please realize where your wrath should be directed.

cat-scratch on June 4, 2013 at 7:57 PM

Why can’t congress pass one single bill without adding pork that cost us trillions? I just want to beat the s**t out of every one of them.

F_This on June 4, 2013 at 8:05 PM

I am convinced that one day the entire presidential election will come down to Iowa and who gives them the most subsidies for corn.

Instead of King Cotton it is now King Corn….

William Eaton on June 4, 2013 at 8:19 PM

When we get to where there are more people on foodstamps than there are taxpayers paying for them, this America thing will be game over. Social Security Disability is another exploding boondogle because no one is willing to say that many recipients are able bodied people who have found a way to extend defacto unemployment benefits. Throw in Section 8 housing benefits, heating assistance and Medicaid and being poor in America is like being rich in much of the rest of the world. So why if the takers get to be 50% instead of 47% would we think change is even possible until the system collapses and there is no choice?

KW64 on June 4, 2013 at 9:16 PM

What’s with our congress lately. They won’t buy more than one year’s jet fighters at a time, but when it comes to the pork and social spending, they will bind all future congresses for years to come. That’s how we got obama care. They get power for two years and we are screwed for twenty. Do not re-elect any congressman that votes for a bill like this. It is not the 90 billion dollars that is particularly wrong; it is the binding of FUTURE congresses to their social programs.

Old Country Boy on June 5, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Our government DOES NOT have the authority to fiscal rape it’s citizens.

the USDA food and nutrition programs are so fraught with fraud and waste that alone should cause it to have zero support to pass.

A family of 5 here in Texas gets over $900.00 for their EBT card, that does not included free lunch programs at schools, it also doesn’t count everything else that IF they have already qualified for food stamps they automatically qualify for: discounted or zero cost AP exams for their kids at school, pre-school head start programs, bus-transportation, lite rail, Obama-Phones, Medical and dental care……. They have in reality become the gatekeepers to all things FREE. The problem, or reality is, none of it IS FREE, all of it costs…..ALL OF IT!

So, how much does it cost to buy a vote now days… oh, I put that figure at around $83,0000 per household that the IRS is obligated to collect from the honest hardworking taxpayer. It is exactly WHY we are over 16 TRILLION dollars in debt.

ActinUpinTexas on June 5, 2013 at 7:15 PM

99% of the readers of this blog have no idea about agriculture.

That’s not to say that the money government has spent on agriculture has been a good idea, just that most people who read here WANT the surpluses of food stuffs that the Farm Bill is designed to produce.

The Farm Bill is not for farmers. It is for end users and consumers, to guarantee ample supply of fungible commodities to keep food affordable for people who wouldn’t know which side of a hoe to put into the ground if they had to suddenly produce their own.

There will always be a Farm Bill, because it isn’t in the US interest if 300 million Americans could not afford or produce food for themselves.

If you can’t raise your own food, you make sure there is someone who can. That’s what the ag portion of the Farm Bill is all about, and why it always winds up with broad Congressional support, despite it bothering you all so very much!

Now, there’s currently less than 3 million farmers and ranchers left, and of those, probably 1/3 could get along without any government involvement at all. But they can’t farm/ranch all of the 1 billion acres used to produce the food you eat. At least not well enough in wet years like this, or dry years like last, to guarantee the supply needed to prevent rationing and steep price sweeps that would impact the consumer a great deal.

When was the last Hot Air crusade against ethanol? Weren’t commenters complaining that it made their food too costly? That’s nothing compared to what a 7 billion bushel corn crop, or another 30 year decline in the cattle herd like the last 30, would likely do to your pocket book!

Commodity agriculture is one of the last few places where market transparency occurs, often rapidly and brutally. The farm bill protects you guys from that along with the farmers and rural communities that support them.

Caustic Conservative on June 5, 2013 at 9:18 PM