THEIR VIEW: Bad farm bill politics

Published on Thursday, 5 July 2018 19:46
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According to the old saw, anyone who wishes to maintain respect for sausages and laws should not see how either are made. Congress has just finished validating that aphorism by engaging in the sorry every-five-years exercise known as drafting a farm bill.

This mishmash of subsidies and regulations purports to protect U.S. agriculture, not just from the vagaries of pests, crop diseases and weather but also from the ups and downs of the free market itself.

Inevitably, the farm bill showers benefits on well-to-do business owners who don’t need or deserve taxpayer help under the cover of deliberately obscure terms such as “federal milk marketing orders” and”base acreage.” It’s true that farm income has dropped in each of the past four years because of falling commodity prices, but Congress showered agribusiness with taxpayer largesse when incomes reached all-time highs a half-decade ago, too. Clumsy manipulation by government probably exacerbates market swings.

Where is it written that this one sector deserves federally guaranteed profitability? You will hear a lot about the need for food security, but it’s mostly nonsense,

This year’s process has introduced a new level of ugliness to this inherently unlovely law. The House version of the farm bill, passed with Republican votes only, would add a work requirement to the government’s largest food aid program for the poor, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Democratic representatives, mostly from urban America, and several Republicans, too, recoiled. Correctly, they cited the bill’s insufficient funding for training programs, as well as the added paperwork and administrative burden.

A large bipartisan majority of the Senate rejected the work requirement, which may mean that it can’t survive the conference committee. The mere fact that it has gotten this far, however, tells you something about farm-bill politics in general and the priorities of the Republican House in particular.

The Washington Post

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Thursday, 5 July 2018 19:46. Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2018 19:48.