The Great Farm-Bill Ripoff

Why are Rockefellers and rock stars receiving government aid?

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.

Congress is now reconsidering farm policy, as it does every five years. If you visit Washington and happen to see a lot of lawmakers wearing slings, that’s because they’ve been breaking their arms patting themselves on the back for “reforming” farm aid. Some of those changes do represent modest improvements. But Congress could do more – a lot more.

On the plus side, legislators are preparing to scrap direct payments. Those are straight transfers of taxpayer money from the federal treasury to farm-aid recipients – most of whom have no business getting it.

Take, for example, Ethyl Corporation. Based in Richmond, Ethyl makes vehicle-fuel additives. Yet according to the Environmental Working Group’s exhaustive database, Ethyl has received more than $162,000 in farm subsidies since 1995. Ethyl’s parent company, Newmarket Corp., is valued at $3.67 billion. Imagine the dire straits it would have been in without those corn payments.

Ethyl isn’t alone. The Rockerfeller family has received federal farm aid. So has rock star Jon Bon Jovi. And the Virginia Department of Corrections, which has collected more than $180,000 in farm payments. Examples such as those are funny, but the bigger picture is not. Most farm subsidies go to big corporate farms, not small family operations: Three-fourths of all big farms get federal help. Three-fourths of all small farms don’t.

Congress finally is getting serious about reforming this system. But instead of simply deleting it, lawmakers seem intent on replacing it with something slightly less awful: more expanded crop insurance.

Crop insurance compensates farmers and farming companies for crop failure or damage. Uncle Sam foots 62 cents out of every dollar a farm spends on crop insurance. This does two things: It encourages farmers to take unnecessary risks, and it costs taxpayers a gawdawful lot. Merely cutting Uncle Sam’s share to 52 cents on the dollar would save more than $1 billion a year.

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.

Or at least most of the time. There are exceptions. Stephen Fincher, a Republican congressman from Tennessee, wants to slash food stamps even though he personally has collected $3.48 million in farm subsidies over the past 13 years. Kid you not.

Fincher is not alone in wanting to cut food stamps. Nor, for that matter, is he even wrong. The House version of the farm bill would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $20 billion. Progressives denounce this as heartless and cruel, and it certainly might seem so until you consider the context.

Here’s the context: Four decades ago, only 2 percent of Americans received food stamps. By 2000, that figure had tripled to 6 percent. It is now 15 percent, thanks to expanded eligibility terms and aggressive efforts by the federal government to enroll as many people as possible. Food-stamp spending, which has doubled under President Obama despite what ostensibly passes for an economic recovery, has quadrupled since 2000.

The $20 billion cut proposed by the House would come out of a proposed 10-year outlay of roughly $770 billion. In other words, it amounts to a 2 percent cut on top of a 400-percent increase. That’s like ordering a banana split but skipping the cherry because you’re on a diet.

And since food-stamp spending constitutes 80 percent of farm-bill outlays, total agriculture-policy spending is slated to soar as well. After adjusting for inflation, the new farm bill will lock in spending 39 percent higher than under the previous farm bill. Congress is saving America right into the poor house. But at least the Rockefellers were well taken care of.

This article originally appeared in The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  • sarcasmic||

    But, but, but without the farm bill prices of commodities would crash, sending every farmer out of business! Then there would be no food to eat and more people would be unemployed! Libertarians are monsters!

  • Almanian!||

    That's basically it in a nutshell.

    FUCK YOU, LIBERTARDIANS! Why do you hate EVERYONE?

  • ||

    Because everyone is a leech.

  • Troglodyte Rex||

    I don't hate everyone, just everyone who is not me.

  • sarcasmic||

  • ||

    This is all W's fault. Decades of working ag policy at the edges resulting in Freedom to Farm right out the fucking window first chance that cocksucker* had to blow Iowa.

    *my apologies to cocksuckers.

  • WTF||

    COCKSUCKA!
    /Wu

  • DJF||

    Here are some other things in the “farm bill”

    “””Provides $4 billion in guaranteed loans to support clean and renewable energy generation, transmission and distribution activities across rural America. This level of funding will provide 3.7 million rural residents with new or improved electric service.

    Provides $24 billion for guaranteed single family housing loans and $360 million for single family housing direct loan program to provide almost 175,000 new homeownership opportunities including to purchase a home or refinance a loan in 2014.

    Enhances efforts to address feral swine, which have been known to be a harmful and destructive invasive species. The feral swine population is currently expanding and is estimated to be responsible for $1.5 billion in damage annually. “””

    http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal.....vid=BUDGET

  • BMFPitt||

    Enhances efforts to address feral swine, which have been known to be a harmful and destructive invasive species. The feral swine population is currently expanding and is estimated to be responsible for $1.5 billion in damage annually.

    If "feral swine" is a euphemism for Congress, I think $1.5 billion would be a bargain in dealing with that problem.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    *my apologies to cocksuckers.

    Honest, decent, hardworking cocksuckers who have never set foot in Washington, DC, anyway.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Enhances efforts to address feral swine

    Subsidies for more Discovery Channel reality shows?

  • DJF||

    Have an open season on feral pig hunting and we will not only save money on the pig program but also reduce the need for food stamps.

  • Doctor Whom||

    That, and give give them a new name that will make people at chain restaurants want to order them. Who knows what the orange roughy used to be called?

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Can I have a assualt rifle to take care of the feral swine? Not a assualt weapon. Not a sporting rifle. Not a military-style weapon. I want a honest-to-god machine gun to take out those swine [for the environment].

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I want a honest-to-god machine gun to take out those swine [for the environment].

    A .50 cal, mounted on your Jeep Rat Patrol -style!

  • Jon Lester||

    Now I have to play Naked Raygun:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unoRsQL1ocY

  • Doctor Whom||

    After adjusting for inflation, the new farm bill will lock in spending 39 percent higher than under the previous farm bill.

    Any increase of less than 40% will turn us into Somalia.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Would that be continental drift to the left or right? Can't be straight, that would be homophobic.

  • lap83||

    "Here’s the context: Four decades ago, only 2 percent of Americans received food stamps. By 2000, that figure had tripled to 6 percent. It is now 15 percent, thanks to expanded eligibility terms and aggressive efforts by the federal government to enroll as many people as possible."

    That would help explain why, when I was a kid in the 80s and early 90s, accepting food stamps was something to be ashamed of. Whereas in the past few years I have increasingly heard people brag about receiving them.

  • Helen||

    If you think Laura`s story is good..., five weaks-ago mom in-law worked and got paid $9421 sitting there a sixteen hour week from their apartment and there co-worker's sister-in-law`s neighbour was doing this for nine months and recieved a check for more than $9421 part time from a labtop. applie the information on this page, mojo55.COM

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