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New Farm Bill Might Help President And Congress Scale The ‘Fiscal Cliff’

The oppotunity to cut from the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program could put the Farm Bill on the agenda of the lame duck Congress, some agricultural interests say. The 2008 Farm Bill expired Oct. 1, and Congress recessed for the elections without agreement on the 2012 update.

Congressional leaders need to decide pretty quickly whether the Farm Bill will be passed in the current lame duck session, or if it will be put off to 2013.

Farm policy experts on Capitol Hill differ on the route they expect Congress to take. But one possibility is that its passage gets linked to the tax increases and spending cuts the lame duck Congress and President Obama need to make to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”  Without such an agreement, automatic spending cuts and tax increases will take effect at the end of the year.

As passed by the Senate, the 2012 Farm Bill would cut spending by $23 billion over ten years. The House wanted $35 billion in cuts, largely from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, the formal name for food stamps.  The number of people getting food stamps has grown with the country’s lackluster economy to 46.68 million or about one in seven Americans. Improvements in the economy and tougher eligibility, however, could produce billions in SNAP savings.

And only by finding billions fast — in either spending cuts or new tax revenue or both — can Congress avoid sequestration, the automatic cuts and tax increases totaling $644 billion that go into effect if nothing is done.

The Farm Bill authorizes a broad array of food and agricultural programs with 15 spending categories adding up to $100 billion a year. Both the Senate and House passed versions of the 700 page Farm Bill earlier this year, but they were not enough alike to become law.

The Senate, the first to make cuts in food stamps, passed a more reform-minded bill with crop insurance being substituted for flat out grain subsidies.  The House, with the bigger food stamp reductions, adopted a more status quo bill.

© Food Safety News
  • http://twitter.com/MichaelBulger Michael Bulger

    It’s widely understood (even by conservative think tanks) that Food Stamps stimulate the economy. According to the USDA ERS, every dollar spent on Food Stamps multiplies in the economy by 1.79%. (http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err103.aspx)

    Beyond the basic macroeconomic principles that support spending money on Food Stamps during a recession, there is the basic humanistic principles that everyone needs to think about. The people on food stamps are the most vulnerable in our society. The elderly, disabled, working poor, and their children make up the majority of Food Stamp recipients. In fact, children make up almost half of Food Stamp recipients.

    Food Stamps are a bridge that help people who’ve been laid off or suffered some other misfortune find their way back onto their feet. About half of new recipients will leave the program within 10 months. Characterizing them as “takers” who just want to live on government handouts and shirk personal responsibility didn’t play out in the Presidential election, and it shouldn’t play out in the Farm Bill.

    This recession has wreaked havoc on peoples finances and driven people out of work and onto assistance. Before we make it harder for them to put food on their children’s plates, we need to get our economy up and running again. Not only is cutting Food Stamps the wrong idea for our seniors, children, underemployed, and disabled, it also makes poor economic sense for our economic recovery.

    (http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/MENU/Published/snap/FILES/Other/BuildingHealthyAmerica.pdf)
    (http://www.snaptohealth.org/snap/snap-frequently-asked-questions/)

    Meanwhile, the Farm Bill also provides government assistance to the agricultural, insurance and banking sectors. For instance, hugely profitable insurance companies are subsidized to provide crop insurance for farmers. Taxpayers not only subsidize farmers’ crop insurance payments, we also give money to the insurance companies for administration costs. Then if the insurance companies have to pay out on these policies, we subsidize them their as well. The EWG points out that $7.1 billion dollars was given to insurance companies based in Switzerland, Australia, and other foreign countries.

    (http://www.ewg.org/release/foreign-companies-paid-billions-run-us-crop-insurance-program)

    To save money in the Farm Bill, many in Congress have proposed capping insurance subsidies and setting income limits so that the wealthiest and most profitable farms and corporations don’t end up lining their mattresses with tax dollars.

  • PowerOfChoice

    The Democrat Senate Farm Bill should NOT be passed with this section still added:  SEC. 12211. DEFINITION OF RURAL AREA FOR PURPOSES OF THE HOUSING ACT OF 1949 would increase the pool of recipients and increased rural community population requirement to 35,000.  This population level would be a small City not a true rural community.  Changing the Census date to 2020 insures those who have already received fair share of benefits over past years and now self-sufficient to continue receiving such benefits.  The purpose of rural programs is to help very small struggling communities grow and become self-sufficient, not to become a Welfare System for self-sufficient communities who have already received past benefits wanting more.
     
    This section in the Senate Farm Bill and also in other bills such as House Bill H.R. 273 and H.R. 6416 is legislative back scratching for the purpose of continuing to feed funding to self sufficient city governments.  Given the U.S. current deficit and debt how does increasing the pool of recipients by adding those who have already had their fair share in the past being greedy and wanting more, serve the best interest of true rural communities?
     
    Again, we are 16+ Trillion in debt and it is time to separate the trash from all legislative bills to move forward.  A Farm Bill should only be for farmers to insure proper Food Supply for our citizens and insure all farmers have access to proper insurance the same as any other business.  Items need to be separated out and those needed should stand alone in separate bills which would eliminate petty bickering in the future such as now with farm needs vs. food stamps.  A farm bill should not contain items for energy, broadband, housing, welfare, etc.  Amendments were meant to tweak a bill to insure what is passed is the best for the people for that item (Farm Bill = Food Supply) and not meant to add back scratching garbage by legislators seeking campaign money.  This is why we are in financial crisis and enough is enough!!!