Thorner: Bloated And Massive Farm Bill Hits Wall (Part 1)

November 27, 2013


By Nancy Thorner –

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) initially announced on November 17 that bipartisan progress was being made on the farm bill. Lucas further desired that a framework be set up when legislators met again on November 21 for the purpose of passing a House farm bill conference agreement before Congress adjourned for the year on December 13. The current 2008 farm bill expired on October 1st. The bill is up for renewal every five years. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman.

Hopes, however, were dashed that a  framework agreement be reached after leaders of the House-Senate farm bill conference committee, having met twice on November 21, hit a wall over food stamps cuts and other things.

About the farm bill, it consists of two separate and diverse measures — farm subsidies and food stamps.  Together they represent $1 trillion dollars in government spending, with a whopping $750 billion of the trillion going for the food stamp program now know as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

The U.S. House did rebel earlier in the year when it managed to pass a version of the farm bill which separated food stamps from the agriculture program.  It was the first time in nearly 40 years that the House had voted on and passed separate and substantive reform bills governing farm and food stamps.  At the first meeting of the Farm Bill Conference Committee on October 30, U.S. Congressman Marlin Stutzman lead a group of 27 House members with its message to keep farm policy and food stamp policy separate.

According to Ed Feulner, past president of the Heritage Foundation, in a November 18th commentary:  `

Separation isn’t the only issue.  The entire purpose of separating food stamps from agriculture program is to achieve real reform.  While there’s a lively debate going on regarding food stamp reform, that’s not the case when it comes to other troubling provisions of the farm bill.  As had been the case since FDR was president, agriculture policy is a government-run behemoth that would make a Soviet central planner blush.
Agriculture Program Examined:
Mr. Feulner goes on to say:
The most expensive single farm program subsidizes about 62 percent of the premiums that farmers pay for crop insurance.  Yet instead of finding ways to reduce the load on taxpayers, the House and Senate versions would expand this program. . . moreover, The bulk of agriculture subsidies go not to the small, struggling farmers that most Americans envision, but to huge ‘agri-businesses’ with annual incomes well in excess of $1 million.

It is not surprising that disagreement exists between the House and Senate version of the farm policy measure on how to deliver the safety net to producers.  After all, insurance is the most expensive subsidy in the farm program.

Disagreement centered on whether to give producers (as does the House bill) the choice between a revenue-based coverage program (RLC) or a  price-based coverage (PLC); the Senate bill offers both types of coverage.  It is thought that going to an all-inclusive system would mean less money within each type of coverage.
Another fly-in-the-ointment for the farm policy measure is the language added by House Agriculture Committee to its version of the farm bill earlier this year.  Authored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, the language says that  a state cannot impose certain production standards on agricultural products sold on interstate commerce.
There is concern that King’s language has the potential to threaten the entire farm bill; the language is not in the Senate bill.  The origin of the amendment stems from a longtime fight between agriculture and the Humane Society which has been pushing states to pass animal welfare laws.
Troubling, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), is that between 2008 and 2013 the U.S. Department of Agriculture disbursed more than $36 million to some 6,300 dead farmers or to the bereaved relatives or business partners of the intended recipients.
While there is much to question about the the agriculture measure of the farm bill, it is the $750 billion food stamp program (SNAP) that  remains the thorniest issue in the farm talks.   A $33 billion difference in food stamp cuts exist  between the House and Senate farm bills.
It is now essential to examine the SNAP program (food stamps) which is often abused by food stamp recipients and mismanaged by government.
The facts speak for themselves and point unconditionally to the need for reform in the way food stamps are handed out by government, many time without any sort of means testing.  I’m sure all have experienced a person in line cavalierly using food stamps in a grocery store when it’s evident their purchases do not qualify as necessity items.
Part 2:  Food Stamp Program examined, with a way to reform the proposed Farm Bill with its existing two out-of-control measures.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 06:00 AM | Permalink



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