Congress may pass a new five-year Farm Bill this summer. On agricultural issues at least, a bipartisan spirit of compromise appears to be building in some sectors of Capitol Hill. If that continues to blossom, then America’s taxpayers and consumers will again be forced to provide a needless crutch for many American farmers.
Next week the Senate will put its latest version of the Farm Bill, dubbed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, to a vote. About half of the Senate’s GOP members joined with all its Democrats to ensure the vote would take place.
Despite these outrageous costs, this Farm Bill has been falsely billed as a money saver. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, calls the bill she shepherded “an opportunity to cut spending."
Perhaps she meant to refer to it as a “missed opportunity.” After all, it’s hard to square Sen. Stabenow’s claim with the bill’s nearly billion-dollar trillion-dollar price tag and shiny pork, including “new subsidy programs for Midwestern and Southern farmers.”
And about those spending cuts. Approximately $4 billion of the alleged “savings” proposed in the Senate version of the Farm Bill is expected to come from mandatory sequestration cuts.
Other “savings” would come from cuts to direct farm subsidies, an emblem of bipartisan pork, which appear largely to be on their way out. Maybe. But it’s small comfort, considering they’ll be replaced with a dramatically boosted scheme of subsidized crop insurance.
Under the USDA’s crop insurance scheme, the federal government pays nearly two-thirds of farmers’ crop insurance premiums.
If that sounds absurd to you, you’re not alone. Last year, a Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial referred to federally subsidized crop insurance as a “boondoggle” that “throw[s] money at farmers, whether they need it or not.”
Which farmers get crop insurance subsidies? Who knows?
In 2011, 26 farms each received more than $1 million in taxpayer-funded crop subsidy premiums, according to data provided by the Environmental Working Group.
Likely due to the fact Congress failed to pass a new Farm Bill last year, about 100 skittish national lobbying groups called on the Senate earlier this week to put the Farm Bill to a vote.
“We must cut unnecessary spending,” these groups wrote in a joint letter to the Senate majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “We must provide an effective farm and natural resource safety net.”
Of course, the safety net these groups beg for every five years is also the unnecessary spending they suggest needs to be cut. But such is the logic of the Farm Bill.