Fact Sheet: An Opportunity to Reconsider a Wasteful Farm Bill
Congressional Blunder On Farm Bill Presents Opportunity To Go Back To The Drawing Board
"[T]he President vetoed the bill that the Democrats sent us. … I understand there's a technical error and we'll have to see what the Congress decides to do, but maybe it gives them one more chance to take a look and think about how much they're asking the taxpayers to spend at a time of record farm income. The Congress had an opportunity to … implement reforms, much needed reforms, and they decided not to. And I think with this move it shows that they can even … screw up spending the taxpayers' money unwisely."
– White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, 5/22/08
For a year and a half, the Administration has consistently asked that the Congress pass a good farm bill that is fiscally responsible and better targets support programs. The Congress is now preparing to reconsider at least a portion of the farm bill and should take this opportunity to address the objections that have been raised repeatedly and the most recently raised concerns related to the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program.
- The current agreement increases spending by more than $20 billion and fails to include much-needed farm program reforms proposed by President Bush. Congress is now continuing its gimmicks by delaying the budget resolution until after it again passes at least part of the farm bill in order to hide $3 billion in farm bill spending that Congress hasn't counted. This bill also adds a number of unrelated provisions and others never considered by the full Congress, such as numerous trade-related provisions. This bill is inconsistent with our objectives in international trade negotiations, which include increasing market access for American farmers and ranchers. Congress should reconsider this extraneous spending increase.
- This legislation is also filled with earmarks and other ill-considered provisions. Most notably, the current agreement includes: $175 million to address water issues for desert lakes; $250 million for a 400,000-acre land purchase from a private owner; funding and authority for the noncompetitive sale of National Forest land to a ski resort; and $382 million earmarked for a specific watershed. Rural and urban Americans alike are frustrated with excessive government spending and the funneling of taxpayer funds for pet projects. Congress should seize the opportunity to eliminate wasteful spending.
- Congress should improve the farm bill or extend the current bill for at least one year. President Bush last week made clear that this is not the time to ask American families who are already paying more in the check-out line to pay more in subsidies to support a record-setting farm economy. We celebrate the fact that our agriculture economy is doing well, but this is not the time to further increase subsidy rates while failing to target payments to farmers who need them. This bill jeopardizes America's support for farm programs.
Congress' Farm Bill Lacks Program Reform And Fiscal Discipline
At a time when net farm income is projected to increase by more than $28 billion in one year, Congress should not increase farm subsidies and add to the subsidy rolls. The farm bill fails to adequately reform payment limitations and instead allows for excessively high limits on the level of allowable income for receiving farm subsidies. Net farm income is forecast to be 51 percent above its 10-year average. The Administration originally proposed to lower to $200,000 the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) limit for receiving farm program subsidies. Congress wants to allow subsidies to continue for farmers with AGI of up to $1.5 million.
Following passage of this legislation, it has become clear that a newly designed subsidy program, which is uncapped, could result in billions of dollars being made available to subsidize crops, locking in historically high price levels. The amount of the subsidy is tied to recent record prices. If prices drop even 10 percent from these levels, the new program could increase taxpayer-financed payments to farmers by billions of dollars, despite still profitable crop prices. This provision is grossly inconsistent with the Administration's proposals for reform of subsidy payments.
The farm bill will make it harder to get adequate food aid to hungry people by essentially locking-in aid dollars for non-emergency use. The bill also fails to include the Administration's proposal to add flexibility by allowing up to a quarter of the purchases by our largest food aid program to be made near crisis areas. This would allow us to provide more assistance faster and more efficiently.
The current agreement fails to deliver conservation results, cutting protection for new wetland acres by 36 percent compared to the 2002 Farm Bill, and eliminating seven million acres from protection under the conservation reserve program. The bill fails to adequately protect vanishing native grasslands, making such protections optional for only a few states.
George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: An Opportunity to Reconsider a Wasteful Farm Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/284145