Lori Sanders

Recent Posts From Lori Sanders

Do House Republicans really want Farm Bill reform?

As much as I never like to question anyone’s intentions, I finally find myself asking this week, do House Republicans really want to reform Washington?

Perhaps it was naïve, but after the defeat of the Farm Bill, I thought hope was in the air for agriculture policy reform. Numerous Republicans had offered strong amendments, many of which were rejected at the onset by the Rules Committee. And a fair number of the remaining amendments were defeated on the floor at the urging of leadership. This egregious flouting of their party’s desire to curb spending pushed members over the edge. Sixty-two fiscally conservative Republicans revolted against the bill, proving to leadership once and for all that, indeed, they are here to actually make changes.

This failure appeared to make leadership desperate, forcing them to take the drastic step they’d previously vowed to avoid – splitting the bill into two portions, one for food assistance and one for agriculture programs. Reform advocates long have tossed around splitting the bill. Their logic is simple: neither portion of the bill is strong enough to stand alone. Nutrition program supporters and farm program enthusiasts need each other to get the bill across the finish line. So for those who find the programs to be bloated, forcing each portion through on its own merit seemed more likely to yield change than the current back-scratching arrangement.

Republicans Fail to Rein in Wasteful Farm Bill Spending

The fact that outlandish misinformation flies around Capitol Hill as various groups fight to keep their subsidies is nothing new. But sometimes, the misinformation is so misleading and shocking that it’s important to stop and take note.

The prize for deception today goes to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who yesterday found himself desperately fighting to keep the massive subsidy scheme known as federal crop insurance in place in the doomed Farm Bill, despite a rising tide of opposition among members of his own party.

A bipartisan amendment offered by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Tom Petri, R-Wis., took strong steps toward placing a reasonable scope on the program, which has consistently come in above cost projections by encouraging farmers to over-insure. Provisions in the amendment include a means-test of $250,000, a payment limit of $50,000, a reduction in subsidies to the insurance industry and transparency of premium support recipients.

Each of these provisions is essential to make the program sustainable over the long term, but to hear Chairman Lucas tell it, the amendment would single-handedly destroy agriculture in America. In a letter sent out to congressmen today, the chairman alleges the following:

The amendment is backed by groups whose goal is to cut $100 billion out of the Farm Bill’s safety net and crop insurance which would zero out the safety net and gut crop insurance.

Some of the same groups say it is their goal to eliminate all federal support for crop insurance.

Expect the Farm Bill to cost a lot more than advertised

With pressure in the Senate to pass the Farm Bill this week (they approved cloture this morning) and showmanship killing any consideration of further amendments, things aren’t looking good for reformers. This leaves taxpayers on the hook for an expanded crop insurance program with incredibly few taxpayer protections built in.

The Senate lauds this as progress, claiming $24 billion in savings over ten years. But a simple breakdown makes it clear that these supposed savings will never be realized. Luckily, the American Enterprise Institute has a great infographic presenting the numbers as they are likely to look over the next ten years. Instead of finding $24.4 billion in savings, the AEI graphic shows $31.2 billion of increased spending, which they rightly term a “bait-and-switch” for the taxpayer.

So where do these costs come from? The answer is the Agriculture Risk Coverage provision, a proposed “shallow loss” program that would make up the difference for revenue not covered by crop insurance. The program works with crop insurance to guarantee revenues, basically ensuring farmers 89 percent of their average revenue over the last five years. So if prices fall or your yield decreases, ARC will smooth over the difference.

Lori Sanders

Guest Contributor

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