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What Every Taxpayer Needs to Know About the "Farm Bill"

May 08, 2013

"We will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with 'must-pass' legislation to circumvent the will of the American people. Instead, we will advance major legislation one issue at a time,"

GOP Pledge to America

Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees passed legislation to reauthorize federal farm and food stamp programs-these bills will soon be considered by the full House and Senate. These so-called "farm" bills were considered in the 112th Congress but were blocked by widespread conservative opposition. Proponents are once again seeking to pass the legislation though Congress.

  • Cost: The House bill costs $940 billion over ten years. By comparison, the last farm bill, enacted in 2008 with the initial cost of $604 billion. That equals a 56% increase in farm and food aid since the last reauthorization. Proponents argue that the bill will save $33 billion, but not in any real world sense. The bill includes policies that over ten years will cost 56% more than the last farm bill. It is only because the Congressional Budget Office must ignore the expiration date of these programs and assume their continuation into eternity that the bill can be judged to "save" billions. Similarly, the Senate bill costs $955 billion over ten years, an increase of 58% from the last farm bill.
  • Food Stamp Nation: Roughly 80% of the bills are comprised of food stamps. This is because there are now nearly 48 million individuals on food stamps, compared with 30 million in 2008 and 17 million in 2000. One in seven Americans is now collecting food stamps. Yet, the reduction to the food stamp program made by these bills are miniscule (2.7% in the House and 0.5% in the Senate), not the sort of reforms needed to roll back the program. This is one reason why most conservatives are so intent on splitting up the bill between its food stamp and farm subsidy components-a reform ignored by both Agriculture Committees.
  • Unaffordable Subsidies: The remaining 20% of the bill contains lavish price supports and revenue guarantees for farmers. For instance, while both bills eliminate wasteful direct payments to farmers, they redirect much of those "savings" back into a new "revenue protection" entitlement program that will effectively guarantee the profits for farmers that currently benefit from direct payments, and likely an even larger number of farmers (thus expanding the dependency and the number of beneficiaries of future farm bills). This additional safety net is on top of currently subsidized crop insurance available to farms and set at current crop prices, which are at or near all-time highs.
  • Violation of the GOP Pledge to America: Packaging the food stamp spending and commodity subsidies together is the definition of legislative "logrolling" that has been used for generations to shield these programs from bold reforms by securing as large a coalition of supporters as possible. The American people voted that type of legislating out of office in 2010 when House Republicans adopted the Pledge to America, which precluded the packaging of unpopular legislation together.