The action — or more appropriately, inaction — came late last week, when House Speaker John Boehner said the massive bill could wait.
“The current situation that we face is that we’ve got people who believe there’s not enough reform in the farm bill that came out of committee, and others who believe there’s too much reform in the bill that came out of committee,” Boehner said. “But when we get back, we will deal with the issue of the Farm Bill.”
The current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, but that won’t really have much of a tangible effect on farmers.
According to the head of the National Farmers Union, Roger Johnson, “Most of the programs that expire at the end of September don’t have a practical impact until after the first of (January) or until spring when the winter wheat harvest begins.”
That’s some time to take a hard look at some of the subsidies, price supports and price guarantees that have no justification in today’s market.
Now, much of the Farm Bill is about food stamps, and that’s another conversation. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) is in need of reform, but only as part of a comprehensive look at welfare reform overall.
But the food subsidies and price supports can and should be dealt with as soon as Congress re-convenes after the elections.
“Farm subsidies are welfare for the well-to-do,” the Cato Institute explains. “Farm businesses have thrived in recent years due to high crop prices. In 2011 real farm incomes were the third highest in the last 50 years. And Census data for 2010 show that average farm household income was $84,400, or 25 percent higher than the $67,530 average of all U.S. households. Farmers simply don’t need tens of billions of dollars a year of taxpayer hand-outs.”
“Advocates of the proposed new crop insurance program argue that farmers need it to protect them not only against natural disasters but also against sudden price declines,” the Post opines. “Why farmers, alone among all businessmen, should be entitled to a nearly guaranteed income is especially inexplicable when total U.S. farm equity is projected to be $2.3 trillion this year, up $500 billion since 2008, according to the Agriculture Department… This is the time to wean our prosperous farmers off the federal teat, not to give them another five years’ worth of taxpayer guarantees.”
Boehner and the Republicans will likely still hold the House after November. The Senate and the White House are more difficult to project.
But Boehner should stick to his guns.
The Farm Bill, as passed by the Senate and passed out of a House committee, is in desperate need of being plowed under.