The House of Representatives is likely to vote on a 2018 Farm Bill in the next couple of days, and the bill has been controversial for several reasons. It increases work requirements for many SNAP beneficiaries, which is a bad measure in one side's opinion, but the bill also includes provisions that would funnel taxpayer dollars to farm households that are not anywhere close to being in need.
Vincent H. Smith, scholar of agriculture, writes that the subsidies included in the bill will be flowing to large-scale farms, even though these businesses are nowhere near in need of any taxpayer money to stay afloat.
For example, in 2015 the largest 15% of all farms receive about 74% of all subsidies paid out under the two largest subsidy programs. Those programs are the federal crop insurance program (estimated by CBO to cost taxpayers close to $8 billion annually) and the so-called “shallow loss” Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) programs introduced in the 2014 farm bill (estimated by CBO to cost between $5 and $7 billion annually).
The vast majority of farm subsidies go to three particular areas: corn, soybeans, and wheat. The bulk of these payments went to corn and soybeans. Smith believes that this shows an intent to benefit a very small number of already relatively wealthy farmers.
Many lawmakers are wondering why so much federal money is being funneled to these crops, when other agricultural sectors like hogs, beef cattle, poultry, fruits and vegetables are all flourishing in the marketplace. Especially when our country is facing a record peacetime federal budget deficit, this is a valid question to ask.
There is still time to incorporate fixes into the bill, though, as Smith concludes.
Many amendments have been put forward that would reduce crop insurance and other subsidies and terminate or modify other wasteful initiatives such as the US sugar program. Many of those amendments, most of which are supported by legislators from all sides of the house and some of which incorporate the Trump administration’s reform proposals, would reduce farm subsidies and rationalize farm programs. They deserve serious attention. As they stand, the “business as usual” farm subsidy proposals in the House Committee on Agriculture bill do not.
Have you ever wondered why the agricultural industry is so heavily subsidized? Do you want your tax dollars going to that, or something else? Let us know your thoughts!