“NO” on Food Stamp and Farm Bill

This week, the Senate could vote on the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (S.954), more commonly known as the “farm bill.”  Despite claims of reform, the bill continues to spend nearly $1 trillion on a variety of programs, including crop subsidies, conservation programs and food stamps.

America is nearly $17 trillion in debt, yet the Senate “farm bill” costs $955 billion, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Proponents of the bill claim it will reduce the deficit by $23 billion over the next ten years; however, total spending represents a 56% increase in farm and food aid since the last reauthorization in 2008.

Nearly 80 percent of the bill’s spending goes towards the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.  There are now nearly 48 million individuals on food stamps, compared with nearly 31 million in 2008 and 17 million in 2000.  Even after dramatic loosening of eligibility standards contributed to one in seven Americans now collecting food stamps, there has been scant discussion of reform.  The Senate bill’s food stamp savings are miniscule, just 0.5% of a program that has experienced exponential growth.

The inclusion of food stamps in the so-called “farm bill” is purely political.  One senior senator recently explained, “It helps get the farm bill passed.”  This is one reason why most conservatives are so intent on splitting up the bill between its food stamp and farm subsidy components—spending four times as much on food stamps as on commodities (and related) programs to pass the latter defies common sense and contributes to the “logrolling” that Americans resent as typical Washington behavior.

The farm subsidies and related protections are no longer justifiable, either.  As Heritage explains:

Net farm income (what farmers earn after expenses) is expected to reach a remarkable $128.2 billion this year—the highest level since 1973.  Commodity prices are riding high on global food demand, a relatively weak dollar, and demand for “bio-fuels.”

Farmers also are carrying far less debt compared to their burgeoning assets. Overall, current farm debt is only about one-tenth of total assets—the strongest position in about 40 years.  And the number of farms assuming debt financing declined by half (from 60 percent to 31 percent) between 1986 and 2007.

Yet, the unaffordable subsidies remain.  “Savings” achieved from the elimination of wasteful direct payments to farmers are plowed back into a new “revenue protection” entitlement program known as “shallow loss” that will effectively guarantee profits for farmers that currently benefit from direct payments, and likely an even larger number of farmers (thus expanding dependency and beneficiaries of future farm bills).  This additional “safety net” is on top of currently subsidized crop insurance set at current  crop prices, which are at or near all-time highs.

Heritage Action opposes the S.954 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard. 

Related:
Heritage Action Legislative Scorecard
Heritage Action on Food Stamp and Farm Bill