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 Hill, cuts less in subsidies than the bill passed by the Senate.
Over the last six years, I’ve been watching Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) very closely. Back in 2008, Chambliss faced a tough challenge in a three-way, finding himself in a runoff against Jim Martin, a liberal Democrat.
Part of the problem was campaign organization. Insider Advantage quoted an unidentified Republican who said that Chambliss and company had the organization of a “bad state House race,” calling it a “embarrassing campaign.” There was also the perception of Chambliss among Georgia Republicans. Insider Advantage again quoted a unidentified Republican who said, “Saxby’s reputation is that he’s spent six years in Washington playing golf. He’s gone on lots of trips. He hasn’t done the down-and-dirty constituent work.”
“Saxby bragged about it his first four years – how much golf he was getting in. It was a real problem and it irked a lot of people,” said the unnamed Republican source. Many Republicans in the state were less than thrilled with Chambliss, who hadn’t been able to endear himself to the state party the way Sen. Johnny Isakson had.
Another issue that hurt Chambliss was that he had lost the support of many fiscal conservatives in Georgia because of his votes that put taxpayers at risk.
News broke earlier today that the House will proceed with consideration of a “farm only” Farm Bill this week after deciding to split the agriculture and nutrition portions. The combined package failed on the House floor last month after several key crop insurance reforms were narrowly defeated and additional food stamp cuts were added.
While conservatives long have supported bifurcating the bill in this manner, the early word is that the farm portion was going to be considered under a closed rule, meaning no amendments whatsoever would be considered. That’s why we at R Street spearheaded a coalition letter of more than 20 conservative and libertarian organizations and thought leaders urging the House to pursue an open process for the bill.
The entire point of splitting the bills in the first place was to secure more serious reforms than were possible in combined legislation, due to the unique rural-urban coalition that existed for the broad package. Splitting the bills and then immediately closing off any avenues to reform just defeats the purpose.
If the House pursues this method, here’s the top seven amendments that would improve policy substantially that they’ll never even get a chance to weigh in on. Most of these were simply stonewalled by the House Rules Committee; a few were withdrawn; and others were combined into a larger package that made it impossible to deal with them individually. What they all have in common is that they never received votes the last time around and never will if a farm-only bill truly proceeds under a closed rule.
Among the problems that fiscal conservatives had with the $940 billion Farm Bill — and what was among the issues that led to the measure’s demise last week in the House — was the inclusion of food stamp funding.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) offered an amendment in the House Rules Committee to separate food stamps funding from the rest of the Farm Bill. During the hearing on the bill, Stutzman said, “[F]or too long this Congress has combined farm policy and nutrition policy and what we have now is a bill that spends $740 billion on food stamps and $200 billion on farm policy.” However, his amendment was rejected by the committee and never brought to the House floor for a vote.
It appears, according to Politico, that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is finally considering separating food stamps from the measure, which is what they should’ve done before, in hopes that that Farm Bill will win passage:
Moving further to the right, the House Republican leadership is actively pursuing a strategy now of splitting their failed farm bill into two parts so that the nutrition title and food stamps funding can be considered on its own.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who played a major part in the collapse of the farm bill last week, is driving this approach, which dovetails with the agenda of outside conservative groups. But it’s not clear whether Cantor believes himself this is the best course or is simply willing to go through the exercise in order to give the right wing another opportunity to express itself.
Fiscal conservatives scored a big victory yesterday afternoon as the House of Representatives rejected the $940 billion Farm Bill by a vote of 195 to 234.
The Farm Bill was easily passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate earlier this month. But the cost of the bill, which is 56% higher than the $604 billion package passed in 2008, was too much for many fiscal conservatives in the House.
This legislation, which is usually passed by Congress every five years, is filled with subsidies for special interests and payments to farmers to not grow crops to keep prices artificially high. It also renews the SNAP food stamp program, consumes nearly 79% of the total cost of the bill.
Efforts were made by many members concerned about the cost of the bill to end farm subsidies to wealthy farmers and to members; however, The Hill notes that those and many other worthy amendments were ruled out-of-order by the House Rules Committee.
For example, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) offered an amendment to separate food stamp funding from the rest of the Farm Bill. During testimony before the House Rules Committee, Stutzman explained that Congress has been passing welfare legislation under the guise of farm policy.
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.
Written by Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
It’s widely accepted that George W. Bush was a big-spending president. He was a social conservative, but not a fiscal one. To his credit, however, even Bush recognized how wasteful and unfair farm subsidies are, and he vetoed the last major farm bill in 2008.
That bill “would needlessly expand the size and scope of government,” he said in his veto message. Unfortunately, Congress overrode Bush’s veto and the 2008 farm bill became law at an estimated taxpayer cost of $640 billion over 10 years.
Congress is moving ahead on another farm bill this year, with the Senate recently passing its version and the House to take up a bill shortly. The Senate-passed bill would spend $955 billion over 10 years—49 percent more than the 2008 bill that was too expensive even for Bush.
Four-fifths of the spending in this year’s farm bill is for food stamps, yet 18 Republican senators still voted for it. Perhaps those members hadn’t noticed that the cost of food stamps has quadrupled over the last decade. Perhaps they hadn’t noticed that federal government debt has doubled since 2008. To members who see themselves as fiscal conservatives, it should be obvious that a less expensive bill this time around is appropriate, rather than one that is far more expensive.
In 2012, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) spent $22 billion on subsidy programs for farmers. Introduced in the 1930s to help struggling small family farms, the subsidies now routinely draw condemnation from both left and right as wasteful corporate welfare. While the number of farms is down 70 percent since the 1930s—only 2 percent of Americans are directly engaged in farming—farmers aren’t necessarily struggling anymore. In 2010, the average farm household earned $84,400, up 9.4 percent from 2009 and about 25 percent more than the average household income nationwide.
What’s more, a handful of farmers reap most of the benefits from the subsidies: Wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton have always taken the lion’s share of the feds’ largesse. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that “since 1995, just 10 percent of subsidized farms—the largest and wealthiest operations—have raked in 74 percent of all subsidy payments. 62 percent of farms in the United States did not collect subsidy payments.”
That is completely wasteful spending right there, something we could drop immediately and wouldn’t be hurt for it. In fact, repealing agricultural subsidies would have a very beneficial effect on the poorest of Americans:
All over the nation, people are “occupying” various cities and destinations. They’re angry over a lot of things, but one thing that I agree with them on is bailouts of banks. Many in the occupy movement argue correctly that taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to make the wealthy even wealthier.
Of course, I would love to get their take on this tidbit:
Wealthy celebrities including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Quincy Jones and Ted Turner have received federal subsidies, according to “Subsidies of the Rich and Famous,” a new report from the office of Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified several individuals receiving farm payments “whose professions had nothing to do with farming or agricultur[e],” says the report. These individuals include real-estate developer Maurice Wilder, a “part-owner of a professional sports franchise [who] received total of more than $200,000 in farm program payments in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.”
The report also says millionaires Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Ted Turner have collected farm subsidies.
“These individuals include Scottie Pippen and Ted Turner, respectively. Millionaires also receive state tax breaks on farm land. For example, Jon Bon Jovi paid property taxes of only $100 last year on his extensive real estate holdings in New Jersey that he uses to raise bees. At the same time, Bruce Springsteen received farm subsidies because he leases his property to an organic farmer,” the report explains.
With the federal budget an absolute wreck, maybe it’s time for the government to ignore Harry Truman for a moment and pass the buck. Almost literally.
The left typically argues that an act is moral. The right often argues that the same act is unconstitutional. However, we can’t pay for it regardless. So why not pass these programs back to the states to handle. Let individual states determine of they want to pay for farm subsidies that pay up to $40,000 per year whether a farmer grows a crop or not. Let the states determine if they want to pay for someone to sit and home and crank out kids. Let the states make that determination.
If these programs are so morally right, they will continue on. Some states won’t, but then we’ll have comparisons as to whether they work or not. The answers will finally be clear and the nation can move on. Yes, proponents of various measures will have to battle in 50 assemblies, rather than just one, but grass roots organizations don’t seem to have a problem with that to much.
The constitutional argument becomes null and void since state constitutions are generally easy to amend. A simple vote and POOF! New amendment. Will there be battles over that? Absolutely. However, things shouldn’t change without a fight. All sides need to be discussed ad naseum so that people have an idea what they’re in for.
By moving much of this to the state level, states can determine if they need a given program and, if so, perhaps target it better. Not only that, but people who disagree with a programs vehemently enough can always relocate to another state. It’s not easy to find another country. However, those who leave a state will also make it clear how they feel about the results of those programs and the taxes that accompany them.
Personally, I think it’s worth a try.