farmers

Massie Drops Two Bills in Defense of Raw Milk Distribution

raw milk

Farmers across America continue to be harassed and fined for distributing unprocessed milk. This has been a problem to hard-working American families even before former congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced his Unpasteurized Raw Milk Bill, HR 1830, in 2011.

Now, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) has announced he is dropping two separate bills addressing the same issues with the goal of restoring the farmers’ right to distribute milk, and the consumer’s right to choose what he or she wants to put in their own bodies.

Dairy farmers across the country find themselves in trouble with the law over the Food and Drug Administration’s strict guidelines, which end up pushing the raw milk business to the sidelines, turning it into a black market and thus increasing the risks associated with the poor processing quality. When laws are too strict, farmers can no longer make use of the protection of an open market where they compete freely. Consumers are the ones who lose.

While many doctors continue to defend the reasons why people may prefer to drink raw milk, many others will say that raw milk is in fact hazardous and must be kept from consumers, for their own good.

While the open debate is always important, banning a consumer item solely on the premises that it may eventually cause somebody harm is just not compatible with living in a free society, where individuals are aware they might have to face certain risks every now and then but are also entirely free to opt out.

Time for a New Narrative on Food Stamps

Food Stamps (SNAP)

By this time, if you follow politics at all, chances are you’ve heard a lot about the farm bill. Passed Tuesday, this bill represents nearly $1 trillion in new spending, with typical promises for paltry reform over the next decade.

At risk of presumption, the problems with the farm portion are rather obvious. It’s no surprise that 85% of economists from across the ideological spectrum oppose farm subsidies. It seems commonly accepted that the “farm bill” long ago ceased to be a temporary relief for struggling family farmers and has instead become a hefty bonus check for some of the biggest corporate agriculture. For example, the richest farmers get the most subsidies, and just three firms received the most in sugar subsidies last year. And Tuesday’s bill did little to address these issues.

A program so misguided is easy to attack. But unfortunately, the farm portion is a very small part of the “farm” bill. And the other part backs people who want to save the next generation from massive debt into quite a tough corner.

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.

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.”

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 rejects wasteful, subsidy-filled Farm Bill

Farm Bill

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.

Pigford Exposed, Andrew Breitbart Vindicated

Andrew Breitbart

Andrew Breitbart, the conservative firebrand who passed away early last year, has won the narrative on Pigford. The conservative blogger, who founded the Breitbart blogging/new media empire, worked hard to shed light on the corruption, cronyism, and fraud that were rampant in Pigford payouts. However, his focus on the scandal was dismissed by an uninterested media.

But after years of ignored the story, it finally got some interest. Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times recently examined the background of Pigford, which stems from a lawsuit — Pigford v. Glickman — filed by black farmers who claimed they were discriminated against when trying to secure federal loans from 1983 to 1997. The settlement in the case required that the Department of Agriculture payout $50,000 farmers affected by the discrimination. Hispanic and female farmers who also claimed discrimination tried to secure the same payouts from the government, but were initially unsuccessful.

What we now know about the story is nothing short of stunning. What was once meant to be a temporary settlement with farmers was expanded in the 2008 farm bill, funded in 2010, and is now rife with cronyism that could cost taxpayers billions.

“The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department,” wrote LaFraniere last week. “But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees.”


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.