House passes Farm Bill without reform, makes subsidies permanent

After a embarrassing defeat last month and despite a veto threat from the White House, House Republican leaders were able to save some face yesterday by passing the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM Act), otherwise known as the “Farm Bill.”

The vote was close, 216 to 208, with every Democrat voting against the measure because food stamp funding was separated from the bill for the first time in several decades. Twelve Republicans voted against the measure because they say it spends too much and didn’t offer any real reform.

While separating food stamps from the Farm Bill — which accounted for nearly 79% of the $940 billion measure that the House voted down last month — does substantially bring down, the $202 billion proposal passed yesterday by the Republican-controlled House, according to The Hillcuts less in subsidies than the bill passed by the Senate.

“The whole point of separating the farm provisions from the food stamp provisions was to create an opportunity to reform outdated, expensive, and harmful farm programs,” wrote Katherine Rosario of Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation. “They missed their opportunity.  In fact, they made ‘sneaky changes to the bill text so that some of the costliest and most indefensible programs no longer expire after five years, but live on indefinitely.’”

For example, Rosario explains, the House version of the Farm Bill added $8.9 billion to federally subsidized crop insurance programs. “President Obama is not known for his fiscal responsibility, but even he wanted to see an $11.7 billion cut to these egregious programs,” she wrote. “With this vote, the House has gone to the LEFT of Obama and the Senate bill in terms of spending.”

While the Congressional Budget Office anticipates $12.9 billion in deficit reduction from the House version of the bill, those savings are still less than the $37.8 billion passed by the Senate. Scott Lincicome, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, noted on Twitter yesterday that the savings in the House bill “are fake, based only on record crop prices that’ll never last. When prices fall, the savings go POOF.”

There also another twist to the plot. In a major change in policy, the Farm Bill passed by the House makes permanent subsidies to agricultural interests.

“[T]he commodities title of the bill, which contains the special handouts to favored industries such as sugar, dairy, corn, soy, and many others, was made to fully replace the 1949 law that required they be renewed periodically,” explained Josh Withrow of FreedomWorks. “This means that these blatant corporate welfare programs will now be even more impossible to reform.”

So instead of bringing the subsidies up for renewal every five years, as has previously been the case, these subsidies are now set in stone. Republicans who were told that nothing changed and voted for this $202 billion, 608-page monstrosity have been duped by their own leadership.

Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor may be patting themselves on the back because they got the result they want, but Republicans have once again proven that they aren’t serious about reform of federal programs or even the process by which they’re passed.


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