“NO” on Permanent Farm Bill

Today, the House will vote on the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R.2642).  Although the bill does not contain the $750 billion in food stamp spending like the previous FARRM Act, it does nothing to make “meaningful reforms” to America’s farm policy.  Even worse, the bill would make permanent farm policies – like the sugar program – that harm consumers and taxpayers alike.

While many realize the bill would repeal the 1938 and 1949 permanent farm law, few realize it would also create new permanent law – the commodities title in H.R.2642 would become permanent.  As a result, lawmakers would not have a built in check, in the form of a reauthorization, in the years ahead.

Instead, market-distorting programs would continue indefinitely, like the government-imposed tariffs on sugar imports and quotas on domestic sugar production, which cause Americans to pay two to four times higher prices for sugar than consumers in other countries.

The new, untested and expensive crop insurance provisions would become permanent, undermining the effectiveness of the Foxx Amendment, which would have capped the costs of these new programs at 110 percent of the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates until the year 2020.

And as Heritage Action explained during the initial debate:

The “shallow loss” program would protect farmers from virtually all risk.  Taxpayers are on the hook to cover even small risks for farmers, eliminating competitive challenges that drive innovation.  Finally, the bill includes a reference price program that would designate certain standard prices for commodities; if actual prices are different, taxpayers make up for the difference. The Congressional Budget Office estimate for the Senate’s Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program – the counterpart to the House’s Revenue Loss Coverage (RLC) – is based on farmers’ record high incomes.  If prices decline toward historical levels, taxpayers will be on the hook.

Finally, farmers are currently carrying far less debt compared to their very strong assets. Net farm income is expected to reach “a remarkable $128.2 billion this year – the highest level since 1973,” making the aforementioned farm programs all but insanity.  The “farm” bill means more expenses for taxpayers and higher costs for consumers.  It means more unnecessary government dependence for wealthy farmers and food stamp recipients.

The reason Congress should end the unholy alliance that has dominated the food stamp and farm bill for decades is to allow an open and substantive debate on the issues.  By doing so, the House could show its conservative values.  As top-ranking House Republicans acknowledged last night in the Rules Committee, this is nothing more than a mechanism to get to a conference committee with the Senate.

Heritage Action opposes H.R.2642 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Related links:
Heritage Action Scorecard
We Need the Right Farm Bill, Not Just Any Farm Bill
Proposed New Farm Programs: Costly and Risky for Taxpayers
Farmers and Property Rights: Conservation Compliance Should Not Be Connected to Crop Insurance
A Farm Bill Primer: 10 Things You Should Know About the Farm Bill
20 Completely Unjustified Programs in the House Farm Bill