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.

True Bipartisanship: House passes amendments barring DEA from interfering in hemp, medical marijuana operations

Hemp Production

Three amendments passed the House last night on two separate bills regarding the cultivation and manufacture of Cannabis, two prohibiting the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) from using appropriated funds to interfere with legal industrial hemp production and another prohibiting the DEA from raiding medical marijuana operations in states where the treatment is legal.

It is important to note that industrial hemp and marijuana are two different species of the same plant. Industrial hemp is used in many countries to produce rope, clothing, and even automotive parts. It has a significantly lower THC count (the stuff that makes you “high”) than marijuana. And though cultivation isn’t yet legal at the federal level, Americans import millions of dollars worth of good produced with hemp from countries like China and Canada.

As former Congressman Ron Paul famously quipped, you’d have to smoke a telephone pole-sized hemp joint to get the same “buzz” as one marijuana joint. It’s important to note the difference when discussing these issues because many Americans who might oppose marijuana decriminalization could reasonably support industrial hemp cultivation.

Earlier this month, the DEA seized hemp seeds on their way to the University of Kentucky, according to US News and World Report. This sort of research was legalized when President Obama signed the farm bill earlier this year with an amendment from Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie legalizing Kentucky’s pilot program. Kentucky filed suit to release the seeds from the DEA.

IA Senate: Bruce Braley’s gaffe wasn’t really a gaffe

Bruce Braley

Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) is still dealing with the fallout from a video leaked last Tuesday, National Agriculture Day, by America Rising.

In the video, the Iowa Democrat told a group of Texas trial lawyers that they should help him in what could be a contentious race that decides control of the chamber this fall, but, in doing so, Braley came across like he looks down on farmers, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

“To put this in stark contrast, if you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice,” Braley told the group. “Someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years, in a visible and public way, on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

“Or, you might have a farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” he said to snickers in the room. “Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

IA Senate: Democrat insults Iowa farmers while seeking money from trial lawyers

Bruce Braley

The agriculture industry is a pretty big deal in Iowa. The state is the nation’s largest corn producer, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association, yielding 2.2 billion bushels in 2013. The state is also known for its pork, which accounts for 28% of all of the delicious pork products produced in the United States.

Needless to say, farming and agriculture is a part of life in Iowa. Which is why it’s strange that Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), who is running for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat, insulted many of his would-be constituents while trying to make an appeal to trial lawyers at an event in Texas.

“To put this in stark contrast, if you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice,” Braley told the group of trial lawyers. Someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years, in a visible and public way, on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

“Or, you might have a farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” he said to snickers in the room. “Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Severity of California’s drought isn’t about climate change

California drought

The ongoing drought in California’s Central Valley has become the next big avenue for President Barack Obama to push his climate change agenda, using the state’s farmers as a distraction from the real causes of its water woes.

“A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods are potentially going to be costlier and they’re going to be harsher,” President Obama said on Friday. “Droughts have obviously been a part of life out here in the West since before any of us were around and water politics in California have always been complicated, but scientific evidence shows that a changing climate is going to make them more intense.”

“The planet is slowly going to keep warming for a long time to come. So we’re going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for; we’ve got to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for, to anticipate, to start building new infrastructure, to start having new plans, to recalibrate the baseline that we’re working off of,” he added.

President Obama revealed a $1 billion initiative that he will include in his next budget proposal that would provide “funding for new technologies to help communities prepare for a changing climate, set up incentives to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure.”

The drought brings another opportunity to pitch his climate change agenda, but it overlooks the some of the issues that have exacerbated the problem, including a 2007 federal court ruling that required the state to divert water resources to the ocean to protect delta smelt, a protected fish species.

Strassel: “God Made a Farm Bill”

We don’t often write here at United Liberty to celebrate works in other publications, but Kimberley Strassel at the Wall Street Journal has written something so epic, so flawless, so profound, and so important, that it needs to be celebrated and read by every voter and every taxpayer in this country.

First, a little back story. In 1978, legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey gave a speech to the Future Farmers of America convention, which included a section that became known as “So God Made a Farmer.” It was a continuation of the Biblical story of creation, using similar prose and Harvey’s profound voice to celebrate the importance of hard-working farmers in America. His speech was actually adapted from an earlier column he wrote, which was in turn adapted from a 1940 letter published in the Ellensburg Daily Record, but Harvey’s speech made it into an instant classic.

House passes nearly $1 trillion farm bill filled with special interest giveaways

After a months long impasse, the House of Representatives yesterday passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill that does absolutely nothing to reform federal agriculture programs, nor eliminate protectionist subsidies for special interests:

The House on Wednesday approved a mammoth $956 billion farm bill in a bipartisan vote.

Members approved the House-Senate agreement on farm policy in a 251-166 vote. A majority of Republicans backed the bill, with only 63 voting “no.” But a majority of Democrats opposed it, with 103 voting against.

Democrats opposed to the bill complained about cuts to federal food stamps, while Republicans focused their ire on the bill’s cost and the way GOP leaders rushed it through the chamber.

The conference report to the bill, H.R. 2642, was agreed to earlier this week, and seems likely to end what has been a three-year effort to reauthorize and alter federal farm and food stamp programs.
Still, the compromise doesn’t offer the breadth of reform that many were seeking, and in some ways seemed more designed to get the process out of the way for the 2014 election.

Many of the 63 Republicans who voted against the farm bill also opposed previous attempts to pass it. In June, the House actually rejected the farm bill, with many Republicans objecting to limits on what amendments could be offered to the measure.

Nolan Ryan considering bid for Texas Agriculture Commissioner

Nolan Ryan

Baseball great Nolan Ryan, who pitched for four teams during his 27-year career, is apparently considering a bid for Agriculture Commissioner in his home state of Texas, according to The Dallas Morning News:

Republican candidates for agriculture commissioner are preparing for a possible late entry from the bullpen who could change the game: baseball legend Nolan Ryan.
A Republican, Ryan has dabbled in politics and considered a run for the agriculture post in the past. In 2011, he announced he would serve as campaign chairman for Todd Staples, the sitting agriculture commissioner, in his bid for lieutenant governor. Ryan, a rancher, also has a line of beef products.

Ryan hasn’t said publicly that he’s considering the race. He did not respond Friday to requests for comment. Austin attorney Robert Miller wrote Thursday in a blog post that Ryan was considering a bid, and other GOP candidates confirmed they had heard he might run.

If Ryan enters the race, he would be the biggest name in a packed primary field. Several candidates indicated they would stay in the race, though the Hall of Famer’s popularity and fundraising prowess could thin the field before the Dec. 9 deadline for candidates to formally file for the March primaries.

The Hall of Famer resigned his post as CEO of the Texas Rangers last month and also sold his ownership stake in the baseball team. He told reporters, “This might be the final chapter of my baseball career,” adding that he hadn’t decided what his next step would be.

Sugar protectionism pushing American candymakers overseas

sugar cane

American-owned candymakers have gotten tired of the protectionism that driving up the cost of sugar, according to the Wall Street Journal, and they’re responding to the market-distorting policy by taking their operations overseas:

The squeeze explains why Atkinson Candy Co. has moved 80% of its peppermint-candy production to a factory in Guatemala that opened in 2010. That means it can sell bite-size Mint Twists to retailers for 10% to 20% less.

“It wasn’t like we did it for profit reasons. We did it for survival reasons,” said Eric Atkinson, president of the family-owned candy maker, based in Lufkin, Texas. “These are 60 jobs down there…that could be in the U.S.,” he added. “It’s a damn shame.”

Jelly Belly Candy Co. is finishing its second expansion of a factory in Thailand that was opened by the Fairfield, Calif., company in 2007. The sixth-generation family-owned firm sells about 20% of its jelly beans, made in flavors from buttered popcorn to very cherry, outside the U.S.

Sugar makes up about half of the ingredients and cost of a typical jelly bean, said Bob Simpson, Jelly Belly’s president and chief operating officer. Thailand is the world’s fourth-largest sugar producer and gives Jelly Belly access to cheaper sugar, labor and other raw materials than the candy maker has in the U.S.

House Republican penalized for voting against Farm Bill

Marlin Stutzman

Back in December, a few conservative House Republicans were removed from their committee assignments by leadership because they voted against the budget plan offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The move was heavily criticized by fiscal conservative and grassroots groups who took the action taken by leadership to stifle dissent in the House Republican Conference.

Unfortunately, it appears that the strongarming from House Republican leaders is back. Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) has lost his leadership post because of the role he played in the in the Farm Bill fiasco that backfired on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA):

Republican officials removed Stutzman, R-3rd, as an assistant whip, or vote counter, this summer because he opposed their procedures for advancing the five-year agriculture and nutrition bill.

“I did vote against the rule, and I knew it would cost me my position as assistant whip,” Stutzman said Monday outside Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, where he spoke at a 30th anniversary celebration.

A whip team surveys a political party’s representatives on how they plan to vote on legislation, giving caucus leaders a better idea of whether a bill will pass or fail. Stutzman’s removal was first reported by the political newsletter Indiana Legislative Insight.

“One of the requirements is you have to vote for all the rules with leadership if you’re on the whip team,” Stutzman said.

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