Americans for Prosperity, among others, is blasting Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) for his support of the 2013 Farm Bill which recently passed the Senate, calling the measure “a bloated spending bill stuffed with $940 billion in welfare and corporate cronyism.” This may be understatement of the month.
The Heritage Foundation concurred, saying, “Let’s be honest. This isn’t a ‘farm’ bill. It’s a food stamps-and-whatever-else-Congress-can-throw-in bill.” It urges its readers to “ask John Boehner WHY.”
Mr. Boehner defended his support by arguing that we can’t just do nothing, after all, and if we don’t move this forward to the floor we won’t have a chance to improve it. This is the only way “we can get the kind of changes that people want.”
We’re glad he’s concerned about what the people want. We just wonder what “people” he’s talking about. Average taxpayers? Big-Ag cronies? Special interests who finance campaigns?
A look at the Environmental Working Group’s farm subsidy database will help answer both questions. Why the Farm Bill, Boehner? Perhaps it’s because Boehner’s district in Ohio gobbles up farm subsidies like pigs at the trough. Sure, there are places that are far worse, but $635 million since 1995 is really bringing home some bacon.
Considering that two thirds of that feed falls to a mere ten percent of recipients, you can rest assured that “corporate cronyism” is no exaggeration. (I would like to compare this list to a donor list for Boehner’s campaign come this primary season.)
The Senate version loaded tons of food stamp subsidies in the bill for the sole reason of getting it passed. Apparently, Democrats weren’t happy enough with farm doles, but were agreeable is a few billions in direct welfare were added. The house version proposes to cut about $20 billion from the food stamps; this has drawn a veto threat from the White House. Please!
On the farm subsidy side, Americans everywhere should be disgusted at the position into which we’ve let government and big-ag force us. Because of a whole slew of socialism and cronyism, the agricultural-government-industrial complex has become a den of robbers.
In plain English, bills like this are used to enforce measures that keep prices high and competition down for favored producers, industries, and for the politicians and bureaucrats who keep passing the laws for them. In this regard, another recent Heritage Foundation report is very illuminating:
Despite record-high farm income and record-low debt, farm-state politicians and agriculture lobbyists insist that taxpayers continue to forfeit their earnings to highly successful agricultural enterprises such as Carter’s Farms, Inc., of Plains, Georgia. According to government data compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the farm owned by former President Carter and his family collected $272,288 in subsidy payments from 1995 through 2012.
During that same period, Vilsack received $82,874 in USDA benefits for his 592-acre farm in Davis County, Iowa. And USDA Under Secretary Michael T. Scuse owns 20.8 percent of a farm in New Castle County, Delaware, upon which taxpayers have lavished $1,051,107 from 1995 through 2012. . . .
These examples are not exceptions but the norm. The USDA’s Economic Research Service reports that two-thirds of the farms with income exceeding $1 million annually received government payments averaging $54,745 in 2011. . . .
The subsidies collected by large enterprises make it more difficult for small farms to stay in business. The flow of free dollars to big farms increases demand for farmland, which, in turn, raises the price of property. Smaller players and newcomers are priced out or left to compete in niche markets.
Members of Congress and their families routinely collect subsidies as well. For example, Lynda L. Lucas, the wife of House Agriculture Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R–OK), collected $40,613 in payments for their farm in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma. (Lucas has served on the Agriculture Committee since he was first elected in 1994. He became chairman in 2011. Lynda Lucas has received four payments between 1999 and 2003, a fifth in 2007, a sixth in 2011, and a seventh in 2012.)
Likewise, the Iowa family farm of Senator Charles Grassley (R–IA) has collected $955,192 in taxpayer subsidies from 1995 through 2012. (Grassley served on the Agriculture Committee since 1992. The Grassley farm has received payments each year from 1995 to 2012, according to the EWG.)
The article in its entirety is worth the read. The revelations are sickening, even for those of us who already knew in general.
And if this weren’t bad enough, The Hill reports on seven major special-interest battles currently taking place in the House version. For example:
Corn and soy farmers in the Midwest are supporting an amendment by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Rep. Ron Kind (R-Wis.) to limit price-based subsidies they say distort markets by encouraging farmers to plant certain crops based on what the government is paying. . . .
Farmers in the South, including rice and peanut farmers, say they need traditional subsidies that are triggered when prices fall and will fight that amendment.
First of all, of course subsidies distort the market! That’s what it’s all about. But note: the argument is not about subsidy versus no subsidy. It’s about what type of subsidy can we pass that will best favor my industry. It’s about how can I distort the market so I profit more.
So, meanwhile, the dairy lobby is pushing an amendment that tracks feed prices to virtually guarantee a profit. Large egg producers want national standards which will push out smaller competition. Sugar producers and candy companies are squaring off over Big Shugga’s age-old sweetheart deal on import quotas. Get a stomach-ache reading about it here. Joe Pitts (R-PA) is fighting it on behalf of the candy companies. I can’t help thinking it’s because Hershey’s is somewhere nearby.
So when Boehner talks about getting the kind of changes “people want,” we have an idea of what people he’s talking about. And we can understand better just why such politicians will vote for such a bill that sends billions of dollars to such people.
The first place to look when any politician begins taking about his belief in a “free market” is his voting record on farm subsidies. That will tell you how serious they are.
And it may also tell you how much serious trouble they could be in for the next primary. AFP was quite blunt: “Republicans, in particular, risk a primary challenge, if they vote for the measure.”
The food and farm industry in this nation has been a socialistic sham for a long time. And the worst of it is that average people end up paying for it twice: to the government with increased taxation, then at the grocery store with increased prices.
We are a nation run by a den of thieves. We are not a free market. The political rule at the most fundamental level of human experience—food—is plunder.