On Friday, The Hill reported that the House Rules Committee would consider a rule for the farm bill, which was passed on Tuesday by the House Agriculture Committee. The House will most likely vote on the one-year extension of the farm bill this week, and conservative and Tea Party groups are urging leaders in the House to proceed with caution when they vote.
Fiscally conservative and Tea Party groups claim the severe drought that has stricken the crops of many farmers is being used by lawmakers to pass a bill that adds more government spending for food stamps.
In fact, as the group Americans for Tax Reform noted, nearly 80% of the the “nearly $1 trillion taxpayer-funded welfare program for large agri-businesses and food stamps” deals with food subsidies and not farm subsidies because the U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the food stamps program.
Last week, a letter urged Boehner to “resist special interest calls to use the current drought to lock taxpayers into a trillion dollars worth of bad agriculture policy.” The letter was signed by groups such Americans for Tax Reform, Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Taxpayers Union, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Prosperity, and Heritage Action for America.
“As you accurately noted recently, passing a new Farm Bill filled with special interest entitlements is not needed to address the drought facing many of our nation’s farmers,” the letter said. “The challenging, yet predictable, drought conditions across much of the country must not be misused to expand an overly-generous federal role in agriculture.”
The letter then noted that “agriculture already has a more than adequate safety net in the gold-plated federal crop insurance program in which taxpayers pick up, on average, 62% of the premium costs for crop insurance” and those who do not enroll in federally subsidized insurance programs “have a multitude of private sector options available for managing risk, including hedging, forwarding, diversification, contracting, and many other unsubsidized options.”
“Taxpayers cannot afford to bail out producers who chose not to purchase subsidized crop insurance or to avail themselves of the many private sector options for managing their normal business risk,” the letter said. “Taxpayers simply cannot afford to bear all the risks for any business sector, including agriculture.”
The Hill reported that Committee members did not want a one-year extension but indicated they would support a one-year extension so the House and Senate can conference on a larger farm bill.
The Senate recently passed a five-year farm bill that projects $969 billion in spending over ten years.
Because of the unique nature of the agriculture industry, some very limited government protection against unforeseen catastrophes are needed, but too often farm bills are used to redistribute taxpayer dollars to agri-business, corporations, and factory farms who game the system and fund programs -- such as more food stamps -- that have essentially nothing to do with farming.
But when the House bill cuts less out of farm subsidies than even Obama’s budget, conservatives have every right to be concerned and will continue to be vocal about those concerns.