The bipartisan farm bill that President Obama is going to sign later today is a mess. It does little to help real farmers, it hands out huge sums to agribusiness, and it reduces spending on nutrition for the poor. The farm lobbyists have dressed it up, but the lipstick they have put on this pig makes it no more attractive. The nation and the president’s legacy would be well-served with a veto.
This monstrosity weighs in at $956 billion over the next 10 years, which works out to slightly over $1 billion per page. What it takes away in subsidies is not chicken feed; direct payments to farmers drop by $40.8 billion over the decade. However, $27.2 billion of that is restored through enhanced crop insurance subsidies. Who is eligible? Anyone can put his snout in the trough so long as his adjusted gross income is below $900,000. Truly, anyone making sums easily measured as fractions of millions doesn’t need a government subsidy.
Moreover, the savings of $16.6 billion that the bill does make are mostly targeted for the years after 2019. That means that future congressional action can undermine it. In short, the savings amount to $1.66 billion a year on average. In a budget the far side of $1 trillion, this is a rounding error.
There is one area where cost savings will be immediate. The bill reduces the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, what used to be called food stamps) by $8.5 billion over the next 10 years. Those reductions are based on a locked in change in the rules that enters into effect shortly.
In his proposed budget, the president laid out his thoughts, “The farm sector continues to be one of the strongest sectors of the U.S. economy, with net farm income expected to increase 12 percent to $128.2 billion in 2013, which would be the highest inflation-adjusted amount since 1973. With the value of both crop and livestock production at all-time highs, income support payments based upon historical levels of production can no longer be justified.”
Based on that statement and comparing it to the contents of the bill, the case for a veto is air-tight. Yet, he will sign it at Michigan State University, the alma mater of Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow. The senator will beam, the president will glow, the agribusinesses will rub their hands with glee. Meanwhile, the taxpayers are abused and some American children will not eat.