Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Passage of Farm Bill in Congress

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Congress this week passed a $956 billion farm bill that President Barack Obama plans to sign Friday during a trip to Michigan.

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Steve Stanek, research fellow, The Heartland Institute

The bill shows once again that when it comes to using tax dollars to buy votes, there’s no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Congress this week passed a $956 billion farm bill that President Barack Obama plans to sign Friday during a trip to Michigan.

The following statements from budget and agriculture experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely(at)heartland(dot)org and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/731-9364.

“It is a sad commentary on American politics that after more than two years of haggling over the desire to have a more fair and streamlined farm bill we end up with essentially the same mess we have had for decades. The greatest travesty is that we still call it a farm bill when, in fact, 80 percent of the funding goes not to farms, but to the 47 million Americans on food stamps, as well as a few school lunch programs.”

Jay Lehr
Science Director
The Heartland Institute

“The bill shows once again that when it comes to using tax dollars to buy votes, there’s no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.

“The last farm bill in 2008 was a bloated offense to anyone who supports fiscal responsibility and opposes crony capitalism. Now we have a farm bill that is 50 percent bigger. If there’s any good to come out of this, it’s that many left-wing environmental groups joined many right-wing fiscal watchdog groups in opposing the bill. The bill’s subsidies give incentives to destroy lands that provide important plant and animal habitat, and they reward big corporate farms and wealthy people no one would ever consider farmers. The bill also promotes continued dependency on government by pouring more than $80 billion a year into food stamps, a program that has ballooned in recent years.”

Steve Stanek
Research Fellow, Budget and Tax Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor
Budget & Tax News

“The farm bill is a classic of pork barrel spending and political logrolling. Farmers are getting price supports under a different guise, food stamp spending will rise, and we’re stuck with it all for a full decade. It’s an awful bill. This Congress should be ashamed.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute

“One of the biggest ruses being inflicted on Americans in the latest farm bill is the federal government’s continued subsidization of the multibillion-dollar organic sector.

“Supporters of the American organic movement are always quick to point to how much money conventional farmers receive through subsidies, arguing that organic farmers deserve to dip into the treasury too. But what they never mention is that organic farmers qualify for many of the same subsidies that conventional farmers do, depending of course on what products they raise on their farms. More crucially, supporters of subsidies for organic farming always fail to mention that while subsidies to conventional farmers generally go towards production costs, organic subsidies inevitably go towards the marketing of the organic sector, which always comes – by design – at the expense of the conventional sector in the form of publicly funded, unfounded, and highly negative attacks on modern, science-based, ‘industrial’ agriculture.”

Mischa Popoff
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute

“In truth, we know very little about the effects of the farm bill nutrition cuts on poverty. We do know that the farm subsidy component of the farm bill simply involves a bait-and-switch approach to, at worst, maintain and most likely increase total annual farm subsidy payments. The direct payments program (a $5 billion annual boondoggle in which 85 percent of the payments flowed to farm households with net worths in the multiple millions of dollars) may be gone, but it is to be replaced by new price support, revenue support, and crop insurance programs.

“Those new programs – targeted to crops like wheat, corn, soybeans, peanuts, cotton, and rice – are almost surely going to cost the taxpayer much more than $5 billion a year. And the subsidies will continue to flow mainly to the largest and wealthiest farm operations who need no help to survive. Moreover, they will do so in ways that cause widespread problems in U.S. trade relations with other countries. In addition, spending on subsidies for dairy farmers is likely to triple or quadruple. In fact, by itself, the increase in dairy subsidies will offset any savings from cuts to nutrition programs.

“In other words, the ‘bipartisan’ Senate and House agriculture committees have produced a 2014 farm bill that is bipartisan only because most members of those committees want to ensure that their local farmers and ranchers continue to vote for them. This farm bill is one place where it is ‘business as usual’ for Congress, and log-rolling is alive, well, and very expensive for the taxpayer.”

Vincent H. Smith
Professor of Economics
Montana State University
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

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