Farm Bill Fails to Cultivate Reform
Rob Bluey /
Congress had its first chance in six years to reform the economically incoherent farm program. Rather than fix the program, lawmakers irrationally increased subsidies.
Below are price increases for the most heavily subsidized crops, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. These five crops are responsible for approximately 90% of all farm subsidies.
Market Prices of the Five Most-Subsidized Crops
|Crop||Unit||Price During 2002 Farm Bill Debate||Price During 2008 Farm Bill Debate||Price Increase||2008 Farm Bill Response*|
|Rice||($/cwt)||$3.88||$14.80||281%||Level, no significant cuts|
|All Wheat||($/bu)||$2.84||$10.10||256%||Increase subsidies|
|Corn||($/bu)||$1.91||$5.13||169%||Level, no significant cuts|
|Upland Cotton||($/lb)||$0.29||$0.60||105%||Level, no significant cuts|
Given these alarming numbers, we’ve come up with eight reasons why the bill warrants a veto without reform:
- Stop subsidizing millionaires. The majority of farm subsidies would continue going to commercial farmers, who report an average income of $200,000 and net worth of nearly $2 million.
- Close payment limit loopholes. Current proposals eliminate payment limits for the marketing loan program altogether, thus allowing farmers to potentially collect millions in annual subsidies.
- Reject spending increases. Gimmicks in the conference report would vastly underestimate the true cost of the bill.
- Eliminate increases in subsidy rates. Both versions of the bill raise subsidy rates despite record crop prices.
- Close loopholes that increase subsidies even further. The marketing loan program compensates farmers for low crop prices. However, farmers are not compensated for the price at which they sell their crops; rather they can choose the lowest market price on any day of the year.
- Reduce direct payments. This $5 billion program pays farmers no matter how high crop prices rise.
- Avoid a new, permanent disaster aid program. Congress wants to create a $5 billion permanent farm disaster aid program. Farmers already receive approximately $20 billion in annual commodity and conservation subsidies, plus $3 billion in crop insurance subsidies.
- Modernize farm policy for the 21st century. The greatest challenge for farmers today is not persistent poverty, but rather year-to-year income fluctuations brought on by weather- and pest-induced crop unpredictability. The current farm bill represents a clear refusal to modernize as times change.