Last year, Rep. Richard Armey (R–Tex.) led the effort to close unnecessary military bases, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Now Armey is preparing to battle a more entrenched group of pork barrellers—America's farmers.
Armey is preparing to introduce a series of bills designed to curb waste in federal agricultural spending. One bill, the Fair Farm Subsidy Act of 1990, would ban farmers with adjusted gross incomes of over $100,000 or gross receipts of over $500,000 from getting government subsidies. Other bills, still in preparation, would curb the use of marketing orders, which Armey notes have destroyed 3 billion oranges and 2 billion lemons for the benefit of a small cartel of growers. Armey also hopes to curb or eliminate the billions spent subsidizing sugar and honey producers and dairy farmers, as well as the subsidies that reward farmers for not growing crops.
"We don't pay truckers not to truck, and we don't pay miners not to mine," Armey said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation. "Why should we pay farmers not to farm?"
Armey is currently gathering allies for his assault. In the near future, he will introduce a coalition of groups opposed to farm subsidies.
Armey is also discussing alliances with urban liberals opposed to farm subsidies because of the way they artificially raise prices. These liberals include Rep. Barney Frank (D–Mass.), a fierce foe of milk subsidies; Rep. Silvio Conte (R–Mass.), who has fought honey subsidies for at least a decade; and Rep. Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.), who dislikes all agricultural subsidies.
Armey expects that it will take at least 10 years to unravel the tangled web of agricultural subsidies. But in the long run, Armey says, "we've got the great advantage. The truth's on our side. There are a lot more people buying groceries than growing crops."