Corporate Welfare

Paul Ryan Suggests Cutting Corporate Welfare For Farmers

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Is that a cash-coated corn stalk in your yard or are you just happy to subsidize me?

Cato's Sallie James looks at how Ryan's budget would treat farmers on the dole:

After outlining the ways that farming America is doing well, Ryan's plan would cut almost $30 billion (or 20 percent of projected outlays) over the next 10 years from farm subsidies (direct payments, currently costing about $5 billion per year) and crop insurance subsidies. Cuts will also reportedly fall on nutrition and conservation programs, but I will let my colleagues weigh in on those.

The focus on crop insurance is encouraging, because crop insurance is an increasingly important part of U.S. farm policy, especially in recent years when commodity prices have been high: high prices reduce the amount of money taxpayers spend on commodity payments, but increases crop insurance premiums, which we all subsidize. They now cost about $6 billion, or more than commodity payments.  And, as the blueprint points out, surely farmers "should assume the same kind of responsibility for assuming risk that other businesses do." Well played, Congressman.

Republicans have historically been less than excited about the prospect of cutting welfare for farmers, so Ryan's budget is at least a small step forward for the GOP, especially since he frames it the right way: as an end to a form of corporate welfare. But it's only a small step. As James points out, the head of the House Agricultural Committee, which oversees handouts to farmers, has given Ryan's plan a dismissive we'll-take-it-under-advisement, telling Reuters that the plan's farm policy ideas "are just suggestions."