There was no 2012 farm bill. Instead, in the fiscal cliff negotiations, Senator Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden agreed to an extension of the 2008 farm bill through September 31, 2013, with the expectation that a new farm bill will be written in 2013. The delay was a real blessing for taxpayers, who would have been stuck with paying for a potentially exorbitantly expensive set of new “shallow loss”, insurance, and price support farm subsidy programs if the House and Senate Agricultural Committees’ 2012 farm policy proposals had become law. But now attention has turned to the 2013 farm bill, with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle searching for inefficient, wasteful and outdated programs where federal spending can and should be cut. For seven decades or more, for the most part federal farm programs have consisted of an array of subsidies, regulations, spending programs, and land-use restrictions that waste economic resources, transfer tax payer dollars mainly to rich landowners and wealthy farmers, generate environmental degradation, impose fiscal burdens, and are largely responsible the failure of global trade negotiations. These inefficient and outdated policies are once again up for renewal. They deserve to be heavily scrutinized, and most of them probably scrapped, especially at a time when federal budget deficits have simply become unsustainable.
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The current “welfare for doing nothing” Direct Payments program and a related shallow loss program known as ACRE should be terminated, reducing the budget deficit about $5 billion a year. Crop insurance subsidies should be rolled back to pre-2001 levels.
You might think that no sensible policy maker would have handed out about $80 billion dollars in welfare checks mainly to very wealthy farm households at the rate of about $5 billion a year for doing nothing since the mid-1990s, but you would be wrong.
If Congress is serious about moderating spending with minimal harm, it should focus on reforming the farm subsidy programs contained in the House and the Senate bills.
The House of Representatives has now passed a farm bill on an entirely partisan basis. No Democrat voted for the bill, not least because the House leadership voted out the nutrition title that would have reauthorized food stamps, or Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program.
The 2013 Farm Bill presents a real opportunity for substantive changes in U.S. agricultural policy. But instead of reform, both the House and Senate agricultural committees are offering classic bait-and-switch proposals to protect farm subsidies - more than 80 percent of which flow to households much wealthier than the average American family.
The farm bill moving through Congress today provides a great reminder of how Washington works: Whenever you see a government subsidy for some sympathetic cause or group - such as the working man, green-energy, homeownership, or college - there's a good chance that the financial industry is also pocketing taxpayer cash through the same program.
Over the weekend, the cartoonish ‘March Against Monsanto' played out in many cities across the United States and the world, invariably to small crowds-although the organizers and anti-biotech NGOs did their best to claim inflated numbers in an attempt to garner headlines.