Corporate Green Acres is the place to be. It seems the free shit army isn’t just occupying West Philly. They are crawling all over the Midwest farmbelt. It’s not your small family farm. It’s the giant corporate farms that have big time lobbyists and congressmen in their pockets. These bloated bills are nothing but handouts to corporations. Why should corporate farms be guaranteed a profit even if they don’t produce a crop? Why should I pay so that corporate fat cat farmers have no risk if their crops fail? Why should milk prices be controlled? Why should government be spending almost $100 billion per year of our tax dollars to promote and subsidize farmers in any way? Since the SNAP food stamp program falls under this bloated bill, maybe the West Philly FSA can join forces with the Iowa FSA to lobby for this bill.
Farm Bill Redux
Tuesday, June 12,2012
THE U.S. SENATE is poised this week to take up the crucial 2012 Farm Bill. This inordinately complex legislation is projected to cost $969 billion over the next 10 years, about $24 billion less than the cost of extending the soon-to-expire existing farm bill.
Big agriculture and its deep-pocketed lobbyists support the new bill, having accepted deep cuts in direct crop subsidies in exchange for legislators “protecting and strengthening” crop insurance programs. Industry considers the latter its safety net against adverse weather and unpredictable fluctuations of global commodities prices.
It’s less of a safety net than a security blanket that shifts risks to taxpayers and guarantees farmers substantial profits. That must change; otherwise, the cost of the new insurance programs could greatly exceed Congressional Budget Office estimates, leaving the federal government on the hook for billions of added dollars each year.
In a particularly cruel twist, the bill pays for these new programs in part by taking food out of the mouths of poor children.
Farm bills are the long-time home of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — food stamps. The proposal strips $4.5 billion from the SNAP program over 10 years, even as the struggling economy has record numbers of Americans seeking food stamps to help feed their families. The reductions would eliminate about $90 worth of groceries a month from the kitchens of low-income families. According to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who is introducing an amendment to restore the SNAP funds, half of those who benefit from the program are children.
The Obama White House is supporting the bill, S. 3240, sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. The administration opposes the SNAP reductions, however, and wants the cost of crop insurance reduced.
MEANWHILE, AN odd amalgamation has emerged to oppose the bill. The liberal Environmental Working Group used U.S. Department of Agriculture data to reaffirm that corporate and very large individual agriculture operations — not small and mid-sized family farms — enjoy the vast majority of the insurance benefits. Last year in Missouri, for example, 74 percent of the $267 million in benefits went to 20 percent of recipients. In Illinois, the top 20 percent received 72 percent of $518.5 million.
From the right comes the American Enterprise Institute with its “Field of Schemes” report. It’s part of a broader AEI project called “American Boondoggle: Fixing the 2012 Farm Bill.” In “Schemes,” AEI experts focused on the bill’s proposed ‘shallow losses” insurance. Such insurance would cost far more than the direct crop subsidy programs being dropped and “create incentives for the wasteful use of economic resources,” the report says.
EXISTING CROP insurance programs already are out of whack. If crop yields fall short of projections, farmers collect from the government. If harvest prices fall short of projections, farmers collect. To make sure that farmers can afford the insurance premiums, the government pays an average of 60 percent of the cost. To make sure private companies offer the insurance, the government pays their commissions and administrative costs.
Expanded shallow-loss coverage would distort the system even further. As one Minnesota farmer told “The New York Times” last week, “I can farm on low-quality land that I know is not going to produce and still turn a profit.”
The farm bill needs a lot of work before it merits the support of the American people.
— The St. Louis Post-Dispatch