Cutting some of the pork in the 2008 farm bill may be on President-elect Obama’s plate. In his press conference November 25 to introduce his in-coming budget director Peter Orszag, Sen. Obama said that there will be a review of government programs to get rid of waste. The 2008 farm bill’s subsidies for rich farmers was a prime example.
As the Wall Street Journal opined in an editorial today, during the vote on the bill (which he missed) Sen. Obama railed against the Bush Administration’s push for tighter limits on the income farmers could earn and receive subsidies. But given the reality of the financial crisis, the almost trillion-dollar bailouts and the proposed stimulus package, the new president will have to look to wasteful government spending, and the farm bill is one of the most egregious programs.
The nearly $300 billion (over five-years) Farm Bill simply paid off every special interest. Farmers got their direct payments, their counter-cyclical payments, their price support loan amounts, their disaster funds, etc. Some producers who weren’t subsidized before — the fruit, vegetable, and nut producers — got some gobs of R&D money that opens the door to future subsidies. The bill includes what was lauded as the “first-ever livestock title,” another group that wasn’t subsidized before.
Urban and suburban centers got their nutrition programs, their food stamps. Environmentalists got their conservation programs, though not as many as they wanted. Energy producers got some biofuel monies, and, they’ll get the USDA to buy up surplus sugar at 20 cents/lb. and sell it to ethanol producers at 10 cents/lb. Special earmarks got others on board — the ”trail to nowhere,” a taxpayer-funded land swap; forests that house fish got some money, as did salmon fisheries. And, one of my favorites, “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” got their pork.