The Farm Bill Debate: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

As the Senate moves into its second week of debate on S. 3240, the comically titled Agricultural Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and others have no intention of living up to the title of their bill.

In 2008, President Bush exercised one of his few presidential vetoes on the farm bill, claiming that, “At a time of high food prices and record farm income, this bill lacks (farm) program reform and fiscal discipline.” This was true in 2008 and remains true today as the U.S. battles a $15 trillion debt in the wake of a still-lingering recession following the financial crisis of 2008.
Sadly, the Pelosi-led Congress, including some 100 Republicans, voted to override President Bush’s veto in 2008 and push $604 billion worth of taxpayer-funded handouts into law. It’s precisely because Republicans engaged in this type of corporate welfare and cronyism that eventually propelled the Tea Party into national prominence in 2009, resulting in a landslide victory for conservatism in 2010.

While there were many policy reasons to oppose the 2008 farm bill, there are even more reasons to oppose the 2012 bill. Laughably touted as the “most significant reforms in agricultural policy in decades” by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; the Senate bill fails to deliver even a modicum of meaningful reform. The Senate version of the farm bill has a 10-year cost of $969 Billion, a 62% spending increase from the 2008 bill.

It also implements a new crop insurance subsidy known as shallow loss and fails to curb the explosion in food stamps within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The number of Americans enrolled in the food stamp program has increased by 260% since 2000.

As the American people desperately look for champions of fiscal discipline and reform in Washington, the Senate has produced a bill that adds insult to injury. Programs that provide farmers with a 90% revenue guarantee and which also could cost taxpayers far more money should crop prices fall is not the kind of reform that Americans voted for in 2010.

These “reforms” do not create jobs—they create dependency and stifle innovation. It’s time for conservatives to stand up and make the hard choices today. It’s time to scrap this bill and enact real reforms that cut spending, eliminate subsidies, and curb the ever-expanding role of the federal government.

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