Farm bill update — more feeding at the trough recommended

A House agriculture subcommittee yesterday recommended extending the 2002 Farm Bill’s commodity programs instead of reforming the massive taxpayer- and consumer-funded farm subsidies and support programs. As the ag website noted:

This retains the basic farm safety net by extending marketing assistance loans, direct payments and counter-cyclical payments and keeps intact the percentage of base acres for which farmers may receive payments. The committee also considered and rejected amendments representing alternative Farm Bill proposals.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns criticized the action and said he was disappointed that the subcommittee didn’t adopt the administration’s proposals, which would have set an income cap on farmers’ receipt of payments but would have extended support programs to farmers not previously covered by farm programs, such as specialty crop producers. Johanns also said that the subcommittee’s proposals didn’t eliminate some of the trade-distorting subsidies that could lead to WTO challenges.

Meanwhile, over at Heritage, Brian M. Riedl has a new paper, “How Farm Subsidies Harm Taxpayers, Consumers, and Farmers, Too,” which points out major problems with current farm subsidy programs:

  • Farm subsidies are intended to alleviate farmer poverty, but the majority of subsidies go to commercial farms with average incomes of $200,000 and net worths of nearly $2 million.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to raise farmer incomes by remedying low crop prices. Instead, they promote overproduction and therefore lower prices further.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to help struggling family farmers. Instead, they harm them by excluding them from most subsidies, financing the consolidation of family farms, and raising land values to levels that prevent young people from entering farming.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to be consumer-friendly and taxpayer-friendly. Instead, they cost Americans billions each year in higher taxes and higher food costs.

Don’t expect the full Agriculture Committee to listen to those arguments, though. They’ll be too busy trying to reach further into taxpayers’ pockets to fund their farmer constituencies.