Will Farm Bill Conferees Help President Obama Maintain Flawed Farm Bill Status Quo?

Farm bill conferees considering unsatisfactory minor fixes to the bloated, archaic farm bill may help President Obama obtain one of his year end goals.  In speeches around the country, Mr. Obama has been pressing for the passage of a farm bill.

While tinkering around the edges of the farm bill may create the appearance of political compromise, it won’t protect taxpayers from another costly farm bill.  Yet, Mr. Obama has the audacity to be surprised and frustrated that the farm bill hasn’t been passed with as much ease as in years past:

Congress needs to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities and protects vulnerable Americans.  You know, for decades Congress found a way to compromise and pass farm bills without fussing. 

The President conveniently failed to mention that for decades, costs have been escalating for taxpayers while farmers have grown wealthier and food stamp participation has skyrocketed.

He also inadvertently identified the problem with Washington:  Special interest groups and lobbyists dominate the discussion to maintain the lucrative status quo for themselves, without regard for fiscal responsibility, the free market, or the impact of expensive legislation on taxpayers.   Even the Left sees that “[a]gribusiness interests have essentially bought the farm bill legislative process.”

Heritage Action is fighting the status quo in Washington and has worked to end the unholy alliance between food stamps and farm policy.

And taxpayers who foot the bill for the farm bill should be concerned as the farm bill conference progresses.  Among the insignificant changes they are considering are new conservation compliance provisions and the Coburn-Durbin amendment, which puts a limit on farm subsidies on farmers with $750K AGI (adjusted gross income).

But Heritage compared the House and Senate farm bills, and both remain models of central planning.  They fail to implement a pro-free market, limited government approach.  The House and Senate farm bills would cost taxpayers $940 billion and $955 billion respectively over ten years according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Recall, the CBO has a track record of drastically underestimating costs.

Fascinatingly, President Obama has called for greater cuts to agriculture for wealthy farmers than have farm bill conferees in either the House of the Senate – but that doesn’t make either of their proposals truly fiscally conservative. Moreover, neither the President nor lawmakers in Congress have done enough to reform the food stamp program.  They’ve done the opposite, in fact, and under President Obama’s direction, food stamp spending doubled between fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2012 to approximately $80 billion.

The question that remains is will lawmakers implement real, lasting conservative reforms, or will they make some quick, unsatisfactory fixes to satisfy Mr. Obama and agricultural lobbyists?

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