Senate poised to pass that terrible farm bill along to the House

The Senate is all set to very probably pass their version of a farm bill this evening — what we’re meant to believe will amount to a less than $1 trillion/ten years cost to taxpayers that, in net effect, is actually going to save taxpayers billions of dollars. The 75-22 roll call last Thursday left plenty of room to spare on invoking cloture, and after the Senate’s vote tonight the bill will move over to the House — which is already in the midst of a major battle on putting together their own version of the same.

A bloody, knockdown fight lies ahead in the House, scheduled to take up its bill the week of June 17th. But having blocked floor action last year, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will find it harder to justify more stalling after the bipartisan showing in the Senate Thursday.

“I think is important for the House to work its will on the farm bill,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. “I’m hopeful that we can pass a Farm Bill and get to conference with the Senate and resolve this issue for America’s farmers and ranchers.”

Brad Plumer at the Washington Post has a handy-dandy graphic illustrating the basics of what the Senate’s bill contains, courtesy of the Congressional Research Service:

senate farm bill

The House’s version so far has more “cuts” that go a little deeper on food stamps, commodity payments, and conservation programs, but as A. Barton Hinkle aptly explained over at Reason today, the entire thing is still largely an exercise in corporate welfare and antiquated subsidies that didn’t do much but distort market signals in the first place and have since become entrenched services to special interests:

Anyone starting from scratch would not design a farm policy like the one America has. At least not anyone with a lick of common sense. But since common sense is as common on Capitol Hill as a unicorn stampede, we have:

A confusing clutter of programs that pay farmers not to farm, reward them for undue risk, write checks to rock stars and Rockefellers, give special treatment to certain crops without rationale, and ladle out welfare to the wealthy while ignoring those on the margins. …

Reform has been slow to come for a couple of reasons. The first is demosclerosis: A rich and powerful minority is highly motivated to lobby for the continuation of its benefits – benefits that do not much inconvenience most of the public on a day-to-day basis, which therefore has little reason to lobby against them.

The second reason is the unholy pact between farm-state interests and urban ones. For reasons far beyond the ken of mortal men, the largest portion of the quinquennial farm bill as measured in dollars has nothing to do with farming. Roughly 80 percent of its outlays go to food stamps. Rolling the two completely separate issues into a single bill ensures that lawmakers from conservative states will support handouts for city folk, and lawmakers for city folk will support handouts to farm interests.