July 11 2013
Vicki E. Alger
Dumping food stamps from the massive farm bill proved to be the charm that got it (narrowly) passed. Last month the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM), as it’s officially called, failed. As Fox News reports:
The farm bill historically has been a vehicle for both billions in farm subsidies and billions in food stamps. Twinning the two massive programs has in the past helped win support from rural-state lawmakers and those representing big cities. But after the bill failed in the House last month amid opposition from rank-and-file Republicans, House leaders removed the food stamp portion in a bid to attract conservative support.
The fate of the measure is unclear, though, as the matter now kicks back to the Senate or to a so-called conference committee to resolve differences between the two chambers' bills. The Democratic-led Senate overwhelmingly passed a farm bill with smaller cuts to food stamps, but would be reluctant to go along with a bill that carves out food stamps.
The House Committee on Agriculture is touting the farm bill for some $40 billion in savings and significant reforms. According to the CBO this “streamlined,” 620 page bill will cost $940 billion over the next decade—and that’s not counting the roughly $750 billion we spend on food stamps over ten years.
Tim Phillips, Americans for Prosperity President, called the remaining farm provisions corporate welfare:
Even without food stamp spending, the proposed bill still costs taxpayers $195 billion [each year] for farm subsidies. Expenditures of this scale deserve proper scrutiny and a full amendment process. It would be hypocritical to oppose uncontrolled food stamp spending but support corporate welfare with no meaningful reforms.
What’s worse, as Chris Clayton reports:
The bill would keep the same commodity, conservation, crop insurance and rural development provisions that were developed by the House Agriculture Committee and amended on the floor before the full farm bill failed to pass June 20. A key difference, however, is that the legislation also would repeal the 1938 and 1949 permanent farm law. The new Title I would become permanent law moving forward.
The Cato Institute’s Sallie James rightly explains that the key to real reform was taking permanent laws off the books in the first place so American taxpayers wouldn’t be subjected to the pork-fest that inevitably ensues every time this behemoth is renewed. (See here and here.)