Farm subsidy apologists try to make the claim that Congress shouldn’t look to farm subsidies for savings because farmers already did their part to save money in the 2014 farm bill. In fact, they claim the latest projected savings are even greater than the small savings expected at the time of the bill’s passage.

So, what’s the truth?

  • The taxpayer-funded farm safety net (commodities/disaster assistance and crop insurance) is projected to cost $3 billion more than was originally projected for the five years of the farm bill.
  • The commodity programs and disaster assistance are projected to cost $14 billion more than was projected; although the federal crop insurance program is expected to cost $11 billion less. It should be noted these reductions in crop insurance costs are due to lower commodity prices, not some change in the 2014 farm bill.
  • The two new major commodity programs, Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage, are going to cost 80 percent more than was originally projected based on the first five years of these programs.
  • Almost all of the savings that farm subsidy apologists point to when it comes to farm bill savings are connected to food stamps (these savings are mainly due to a slowly improving economy and nothing to do with the 2014 farm bill). If they are trying to make a point about farmers doing their part when it comes to the budget, referring to food stamp savings is entirely irrelevant. They might as well point to any savings in the space program (if any savings exist). Using food stamp savings to muddle the farm subsidy picture is a great example of why the nutrition title and non-nutrition titles need to be separated and considered in separate legislation. There must be an open and distinct discussion on each; keeping them together only serves to confuse and mislead.

When looking at farm subsidies, the budgetary impact is certainly important, but Congress should be focused on what constitutes sound policy. Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to provide handouts to agricultural producers when they simply don’t get as much revenue as they anticipated. Taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to subsidize programs that hand out checks to farmers who have enjoyed bumper crops. Yet, this is exactly what is happening.

Legislators, including members of the budget committees, should take a step back and ask why there even needs to be a farm-related safety net. If they do this, then there’s a much greater chance sound policy will be developed.