This Farm Bill Stinks

A lousy new Farm Bill is about to become law.

CattlePublic DomainLike a phoenix made of pork, the Farm Bill has risen from the ashes. And for opponents of farm subsidies and wasteful government spending, that’s bad news.

The measure, which had languished for two years in Congress, passed in the House this week. The Senate is expected to vote on the Farm Bill next week.

At least one member of the chamber, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has said he’ll vote against it. But most observers expect the bill will sail through the Senate, and President Barack Obama has said he’ll sign it if it reaches his desk in its current form. In short, it appears the Farm Bill is a done deal.

The most notable change in this year’s Farm Bill is the elimination of direct farm subsidies, the multi-billion-dollar handout to mostly wealthy farmers. That’s a good thing. But in its place, Congress has substituted taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance. And the bill taxpayers may foot for crop insurance subsidies—at least $89 billion over ten years—may outweigh what taxpayers would have contributed in direct subsidies. There are other many other costly bells and whistles to be found in the bill.

In short, what Congress has billed as a cost-cutting reform measure is nothing of the sort.

Recognizing this, the Washington Post editorial board, for example, called on President Obama to “stand up for his declared principles by vetoing it.”

But others are willing to move on. New York Times editors held their nose in endorsing the bill, captioning their support with the less-than-optimistic headline, “The Farm Bill Could Have Been Worse.”

Like the Farm Bill itself, the House vote in favor of the bill is ugly, no matter how one looks at it.

For every two members of the House who voted against the bill, there were three that supported it. While more than 100 Democrats voted against the bill, just 63 Republicans did the same.

Beyond the mere fact that the Farm Bill passed while laden with so much pork, it’s that last figure that has many conservative and libertarian groups up in arms.

For example, a Citizens Against Government Waste press release on the Farm Bill’s passage was titled, “It’s a Dung Deal.”

A Taxpayers for Common Sense statement says the Farm Bill “wastes taxpayer dollars on new special interest policies for everything from sheep to sushi rice.”

Not surprisingly, the reactions of conservative and libertarian Farm Bill experts I spoke to by email this week ranged from disgusted to aghast.

“The bill is a disaster for taxpayers and has the potential to be even more expensive and wasteful than the abysmal 2008 Farm Bill that it is replacing,” says Tom Schatz, president of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, CAGW’s lobbying arm. “While the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the conference agreement will save a minuscule $16.6 billion over 10 years (which is not likely to be achieved), that amount pales in comparison to the myriad problems that permeate the bill.”

“By keeping an unnecessary catfish inspection program and refusing to reform crop insurance or eliminate the unnecessary sugar program,” said David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, “members of both parties and both chambers missed a golden opportunity to fundamentally shift agriculture policy from government-centric to one that embraces the free market and common sense.”

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  • Snark Plissken||

    Like a phoenix made of pork, the Farm Bill has risen from the ashes.

    You had me at pork

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    It could have been a Chris Christie survival reference.

  • Snark Plissken||

    "Ashes" could have been a George Soros roundin' up the Jews reference.

    soros.org

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Matt Welch defended the liberty loving Soros against you Beckerheads a couple of years ago:

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/11.....us-misread

    Read and learn.

  • Snark Plissken||

    Shrieky also has no sense of guilt.

    soros.org

  • kris713||

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  • David Wall||

    Beckerhead? That's Keith's term, isn't it? How's ol' Keith doing these days? Haven't heard much from him, lately.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Olbermann is back on ESPN where he doesn't piss off any of the right people.

  • Robert||

    All the other democracies have ag subsidies and/or cartels, so it would be very surprising if the USA went long without them.

  • Ted S.||

    Welcome back, Baylen!

    I hope this is a sign that we're not going to be deluged with years-old posts over the weekend.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    With 200+ comments from 8 months ago. It's almost like they're spitting in the face of every regular commentator here.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    They just want to see if we will argue with our past selves like our dear leader.

  • Snark Plissken||

    CT scans and cancer.

    The use of medical imaging with high-dose radiation — CT scans in particular — has soared in the last 20 years. Our resulting exposure to medical radiation has increased more than sixfold between the 1980s and 2006, according to the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements. The radiation doses of CT scans (a series of X-ray images from multiple angles) are 100 to 1,000 times higher than conventional X-rays.

    (sorry for linking to NYT)

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    The relationship between radiation and the development of cancer is well understood: A single CT scan exposes a patient to the amount of radiation that epidemiologic evidence shows can be cancer-causing.

    This article is fear mongering BS. There is no evidence of radiation causing cancer at low doses and in fact the opposite has been shown in cases (hormesis). They don't even give one actual dose level received by a single CT scan and just provide some scary number like "100 to 1,000 times higher than conventional X-rays."

  • Snark Plissken||

    Well they do mention two studies, although they neglect to actually link to said studies.

    The risks have been demonstrated directly in two large clinical studies in Britain and Australia. In the British study, children exposed to multiple CT scans were found to be three times more likely to develop leukemia and brain cancer. In a 2011 report sponsored by Susan G. Komen, the Institute of Medicine concluded that radiation from medical imaging, and hormone therapy, the use of which has substantially declined in the last decade, were the leading environmental causes of breast cancer, and advised that women reduce their exposure to unnecessary CT scans.
  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    children exposed to multiple CT scans were found to be three times more likely to develop leukemia and brain cancer.

    There is no way that the increase cancer risk is somehow related to the reason they are getting the CT scan in the first place?

  • Snark Plissken||

    That would seem like an obvious correlation, yes, one that should be controlled for, obviously, but who knows? They didn't link to the study and I'm too lazy to look for it.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    I just tired to find the study but I found a CBS article with this interesting line:

    However the researchers behind the new study say the absolute risk of developing cancer is still small and probably outweighed by the reason the child needs the CT scan in the first place.
  • Surly Chef||

    This is one of the many things that irks me about scientific reporting. Okay so you said there is a study. Where is it? What kind of study was it? Was it an experiment, a survey, whats the sample size, methodology? Even in linked studies the abstract doesn't agree with the fear-mongering headline of the story in many cases. In other the journalist inserts causation where none can be ascertained (like in a survey).

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Basically exactly what I said below, you just beat me to it.

  • wareagle||

    you are asking questions that are beyond the realm of many. I'm reasonably smart but it was grad school before I got a full understanding of the things you mention and their value in determining a study's validity.

    People are conditioned to hear "according to a study" and assume that it was done in good faith by well-meaning people.

  • Surly Chef||

    I do take for granted that these things interest me and make sense despite by blue collar profession and lack of any sort of schooling on the subject matter.
    Sometimes I even take for granted that writing is a competitive field not entirely based on skill but, mostly on readership. And that scare stories get circulated.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    This is one of the many things that irks me about scientific reporting. Okay so you said there is a study. Where is it? What kind of study was it? Was it an experiment, a survey, whats the sample size, methodology?

    That's because the referenced studies are just props, creating a false air of authority to the report. It's the same putting a white lab coat on a 'doctor' during TV reports.

    Modern mass market media is all propaganda - designed to persuade with emotional appeals. Conveying real information is not only irrelevant but counterproductive to that end.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Radiation studies must be read with a fine tooth comb. They are typically filled with deliberately unidentified bias to push the authors preconceived point. It is very similar to climate change studies. And since so many people are easily scared by evil radiation, the authors of the studies get away with it. Studies that show that low does radiation are not related to any increased cancer occurrences never make good reads because they don't stir up the FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, and DOUBT pot.

  • Snark Plissken||

    No different than most other so-called science reporting. It's pretty easy to dismantle these bullshit cherry-picked meta-studies that "prove" red meat causes cancer, etc.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    True, any study that has the possibility of showing some unidentified harm that is having a big impact on our health will typically have this bias, or at least certain scientist ignoring it when producing these studies.

    Radiation is a different bread though. Akin to GMO, it brings nuts out of the woodwork in droves.

  • Surly Chef||

    You can't hug your children with nuclear weapons.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    You can't hug your children with nuclear weapons arms.

    FTFY. You obviously missed the Greenpeace memo ;)

  • pan fried wylie||

    Cost is the primary reason to do plain x-rays instead of CT.

  • wareagle||

    The question isn't what's in the farm bill, it's why there is a farm bill in the first place. THIS is a place for libertarians to make some inroads - by pointing to spending to that has long outlived its usefulness and exists solely to satisfy the cronyists.

    Seriously, if you are going to put taxpayers on the hook for "crop insurance," just think of the additional applications of that approach. How many other industries would, if they don't already, seek their own insurance entitlement?

  • David Wall||

    Agreed. Farm bills are simple corporate welfarism.

    With the exception of stupid sports team stadiums, corporate welfarism is one statist issue that is way on the libertarian's side in popularity. They should drive it all the way to the barn.

  • BardMetal||

    I've argued this with my dad once, and he is convinced that if it wasn't for government meddling in agriculture that we would have another dust bowl on our hands.

    I wonder how many other people think like that.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    "The question isn't what's in the farm bill, it's why there is a farm bill in the first place."

    THIS. Well said, sir.

  • Robert||

    OK, but there have been libertarians for millennia, yet there have been gov't favors for farming for about as long as and everywhere there have been democracies. It's been said, for instance, that the world is awash in surplus butter & cheese as a result. Why are such policies so tenacious? The only comparable favorites of statism that I can think of are retirement programs & health care.

    AFAICT, the story seems to be that in at least most places, the factions that most favor individual liberty generally are also those that benefit from or otherwise have reason to favor farm favoritism.

  • Atanarjuat||

    Huh. My representative, Steve Southerland, who was voted in last time claiming to be a small government conservative reformer, was sounding pretty flustered on the radio trying to defend the farm bill.

    "Don't you get it? It's incrementally better! It cuts food stamps!"

    Didn't take long for him to show his true colors.

  • wareagle||

    I used to live on PC Beach; remember Southerland. He loved banging on the conservative drum but apparently, his interpretation of the word and mine are not the same.

  • wareagle||

    and mine was not a point worthy of repetition. Maybe the squirrels think even less of Steve than you do.

  • wareagle||

    I used to live on PC Beach; remember Southerland. He loved banging on the conservative drum but apparently, his interpretation of the word and mine are not the same.

  • Brett L||

    Well, at least we voted out one of the deciding House votes for Obamacare to get him. But yeah, I'm ready for someone else. He's got his lips so firmly on the military's dick, I'm surprised he can say anything.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    This article is fear mongering BS.

    I think they are just laying the groundwork for explaining why you shouldn't be disappointed when the doctor says it will be eight months before he can get you in for a CT scan after you have fallen off a ladder and are suffering severe headaches.

    "That CT scan could kill you."

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    It's a typical anti-nuclear push. They even make the claim that 1 single CT scan has been linked to an increase in cancer. Bullshit. There is no way to prove that, it is impossible. Does living in Denver, Colorado lead to an increase in cancer since there is a much higher background radiation level? I have see no evidence of that yet, following their radiation dose-cancer risk theory, Denver residents should have much higher cancer occurrences than most other places in the US.

  • So very tired||

    I have see no evidence of that yet, following their radiation dose-cancer risk theory, Denver residents should have much higher cancer occurrences than most other places in the US.

    Not sure how you get there since long term chronic exposure (living in Denver) is going to be different epidemioligically than a single, or multiple, large doses.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Maybe, but much of the scare from radiation comes from the linear no threshold hypothesis. The evidence for that claim is weak as is the evidence for hormesis.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    THIS is a place for libertarians to make some inroads - by pointing to spending to that has long outlived its usefulness and exists solely to satisfy the cronyists.

    Haha, you're funny.

    I suppose you think we should eliminate the "Remember the Maine!" tax on telephones, too.

  • wareagle||

    or we can sit in our echo chamber and tell everyone else to get off our lawn. Yeah, I know; it largely falls on deaf ears and those who hear and heed it are blasted by both sides' establishment wings.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "For every two members of the House who voted against the bill, there were three that supported it. While more than 100 Democrats voted against the bill, just 63 Republicans did the same."

    No politicians will ever be the principled people we want them to be, and this is an election year. The best way to limit this sort of pork is to take our case to the American people. When the voters will no longer accept this sort of thing, our politicians will no longer support it.

    My take from this is that politicians can only be trusted to pursue their own political interests--not our interests. The only principle they're slavishly dedicated to is getting reelected, and that's a great reason why their power (and the power of the government) should be limited to as small a sphere as possible.

  • wareagle||

    problem is, Ken, they only see it as pork when someone else is getting the bennies. When it's them, their industry, or their town, then it's their tax dollars being returned home.

    Very few people would win election on a campaign of "I will not do the bidding of the special interests and, by the way, I won't do your bidding, either. The Treasury is not a trough, people, and that applies to Little You as much as it does to Big Whatever."

  • Ken Shultz||

    Leaving other people alone so they'll leave you alone is a universal principle; it isn't hopeless.

  • Virginian||

    Leaving other people alone so they'll leave you alone is a universal principle

    Yeah people don't like free government money at all. They're just itching to get rid of it in fact.

  • David Wall||

    It's way better to post nothing, than be cynical. What's the point?

  • Virginian||

    You say cynical, I say realistic. There's no voting our way out of this. People like their free shit, and they've been brought up in government schools to believe that free shit can always be paid for by other people.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I think progressives are wrong about that--just like they're wrong about everything else.

    A lot of people like free stuff in theory, but when the programs become a reality, they don't like it anymore.

    ObamaCare is a great example. A lot of people liked ObamaCare--right up until the moment when it became a reality and started costing them in the real world.

    Yeah, everybody likes a free lunch in theory. But there is no such thing as a free lunch. And when they have to pay the bill, they're not so crazy about free lunches anymore.

    The fantasy is that everybody wants these programs. The pragmatic reality is that nobody wants to pay the price for them.

  • Virginian||

    The fantasy is that everybody wants these programs. The pragmatic reality is that nobody wants to pay the price for them.

    It's not everybody who wants them, it's just more then half the voters. Which is enough. Ain't democracy grand?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Yep.

    It would be more productive for libertarians to promise free shit and once in office begin dismantling every other aspect of the state.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Yeah people don't like free government money at all. They're just itching to get rid of it in fact."

    They don't like paying for other people.

    Not taking money from other people so they won't take money from me makes a lot of sense--if we don't want Democracy to be two wolves and a lamb arguing about what's for dinner.

    We're all in the minority somehow.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    In short, what Congress has billed as a cost-cutting reform measure is nothing of the sort.

    I have to go lie down, now. The shock has overwhelmed me.

  • From the Tundra||

    Get the smelling salts, stat!

    The worst part is, that even if we were able to completely nuke the crop insurance and commodity programs, there still is $756 BILLION in "nutrition assistance" to deal with. No way in hell anyone has the guts to kill that.

  • Sevo||

    Michelle Obo wants to export SF politics:

    "Michelle Obama to S.F. Dems: Get out of town"
    [...]
    "Go out into the wilderness, and roll up your sleeves. [...] "Most districts in this country are not like San Francisco. ... We have a lot of tight races in other parts of California and all across the country. And every single one of these seats matters."

    Well, if she could empty SF of SF politics, I'd be all for it, but I don't think she knows how most of the nation sees SF as the idiot relative best kept in the attic.
    http://www.sfgate.com/politics.....193953.php

  • Mokers||

    Go out into the wilderness, and roll up your sleeves.

    I think the biggest shock is that there are large swaths of the country that don't give a fuck what you're doing. They may go crazy without a bunch of people telling them what to do and what to think.

  • Virginian||

    I also like how anything not in SF is the "wilderness". SF is like 13th or 14th on the list of American cities if I remember. Indianapolis and Jacksonville, not to mention four cities in Texas, are bigger than SF.

  • Mokers||

    With all the surrounding counties, the metro area is pretty big, but the city and county of SF are not huge. San Jose and San Diego and of course Los Angeles are all bigger. Many people in San Francisco think heading over the bridge to Oakland or to the suburbs on the peninsula is unbearable. The SF diaspora is is just not gonna happen.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Most districts in this country are not like San Francisco.

    Cthulu be praised!

  • Sevo||

    Chron attempt as "diversity" in columnists fails in amusing manner:
    Younng Philipina columnist, given back page on Saturday, deserves it. It turns out, according to her, that SF can keep from chasing blacks out of town quite simply:

    ..." but they could do things to make people feel welcome. Here's an obvious suggestion: Would it really be that hard for San Francisco to acknowledge its black history?"

    Yep, the housing costs, the ridiculous politics, the miserable infrastructure; none of that matters. We just have to hang up signs on light posts.
    http://www.sfgate.com/living/a.....194221.php

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't believe the conversations she's talking about actually happened.

    I don't believe that her black friends moved to London because the City of San Francisco didn't do enough for Black History month.

    I don't believe the story about the farewell brunch either.

    My bullshit detector is off the hook.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Maybe she's feeling guilty for telling the 2 black people she knows that San Francisco isn't the 'place for them'.

    I mean, christ on a cracker, is there any non-racist way to tell a black acquaintance that the city that you live in isn't the sort of place for his people and he should move somewhere else?

    "I think you'd be more comfortable in a place with more of your own kind. Like Detroit or Kenya. Such rich cultural histories those places have!"

  • Mokers||

    I think it was Dave Chapelle who said "I love the people of San Francisco, they made an entire city for black people and called it Oakland!"

    But yeah, African American population is shrinking in many cities (and the country) as a percentage of the population because there are other immigrants coming in. A ton of bullshit in that article.

  • Sevo||

    "I don't believe the conversations she's talking about actually happened."

    Ken, I doubt any of that stuff happened. I'm pretty sure what happened is a deadline approaching, and the only 'diversity' subject she could think of was 'Black History Month'.
    OK, she's got 3 hours before the copy is due in; what, what, what can a dim J-school major do with that?
    Answer: Not much.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, it's like a columnist's fantasy about about the kind of world she lives in.

    People move to London because San Francisco doesn't emphasize Black History Month?

    People have a farewell brunch to celebrate leaving San Francico--because the support for Black History Month just isn't there?

    And at the farewell brunch, they tell her she was right all along...

    It sounds like the old monkey fishing thing!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.....ng_scandal

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Charges Dropped Against Woman Who Was Arrested for Reporting Animal Abuse in an 'Untimely Manner'

    "The animal activist who was cited in November for cruelty at a Kersey cattle company has been cleared of the charges.

    Taylor Radig, who has been associated with animal rights organization Compassion Over Killing, worked as a temporary employee at Quanah Cattle Co. near Kersey from mid-July to September 2013. During that time, Radig filmed hours of alleged cattle abuse at the company and turned her videos over to the Weld County Sheriff’s Office two months after she stopped working there, according to the sheriff’s office.

    By not reporting the alleged abuse in a timely manner, Radig was deemed to be negligent and cited for animal cruelty. Investigators also believed she had participated in the cattle abuse."

    http://www.coloradoan.com/arti.....uelty-case

    More on the case here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....33302.html

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    It appears that some agribusiness lobbies, stung by some recent 'undercover' videos detailing what appeared to be abusive practices at certain facilities, are pushing lawmakers in several states to adopt laws that mandate any witnessed animal abuse be reported to authorities (and any recording of same be turned over to said authorities) within 24 hours or the witness can be charged with a crime.

  • Virginian||

    Interesting.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    And these witnesses are being paid as police officers, right?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Yep, the housing costs, the ridiculous politics, the miserable infrastructure; none of that matters. We just have to hang up signs on light posts.

    If they were honest, they'd just hang negroes from the light posts.

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  • Robert||

    While more than 100 Democrats voted against the bill, just 63 Republicans did the same.

    Beyond the mere fact that the Farm Bill passed while laden with so much pork, it’s that last figure that has many conservative and libertarian groups up in arms.


    Rural (hence agricultural) districts are heavily Republican.

    This is an old story. To maintain a governing or at least influential coalition, liberals (not "liberals") quickly tend to coalit with farm interests. They tended to be drawn together early in the hx of the USA to oppose Hamiltonian forces. It was explained to us decades ago that in Denmark the nominally liberal party was also "the friend of the farmer". And who's to say that was a bad bargain? For all we know, paying off the farmers may have been, and may continue to be, a small price to pay in staving off more general encroachments on freedom.

  • ||

    Out of sheer exhaustion, I think the move to crop insurance may be an improvement.

    In particular, it will make it easier to gradually increase crop insurance premiums and eventually make the crop insurance program self-funding, and in the very long term, privatized.

    I'm presuming, naturally, that farmers will be paying some sort of premium into this system. I haven't actually read the bill. But if they're supposed to be *paying* for the insurance coverage then eventually it should be feasible to raise premiums to the point that they actually cover average losses, thus eliminating farm subsidies slowly over time.

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  • judeoconnor@mac.com||

    Al Gore's tobacco subsidies I'll bet are safe.

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