$10.6 billion is a lot of money … even spread out over ten years … and for what … spreading manure … well at least that’s the way that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-07) described the program that was declared the YouCut winner earlier this year :
The Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Stewardship Program makes payments to farmers for engaging in soil conservation activities like taking farmland out of production, injecting manure into the soil, or installing “wildlife friendly fencing.” The program pays landowners up to $200,000 per farm over a five year period for engaging in a mix of these practices. Critics contend that the program pays landowners for conservation practices that they might do without any federal payments simply because they are good land management practices. Terminating the program while honoring all currently existing contracts could save up to $10.6 billion over ten years.
Thus one would suspect that HR 4015 – Responsible Farming Act of 2012 would get many co-sponsors, quick committee hearing, and a prompt vote … after all, the Ryan Budget Resolution has set targets that requires cuts of the $33.2 billion in Department of Agriculture cuts.
Well, the Responsible Farming Act of 2012 was introduced on February 13 and has ZERO co-sponsors … wait a second, that is $10.6 BILLON and won the You Cut contest … why ?
Why wouldn’t John Kline (R-MN-02) who has promoted You Cut suggestions in the past – as well as being known for his “StopThePork” program – not endorse this termination of the program ?
Well, could be that this is an election year … and recipients in this program vote.
So while Farm income and prices for commodity crops are soaring, reforming Ag programs could come with some risk. BTW, in 2008, $210,000 was the average household income of farms that received at least $30,000 in government payments that year but 74% of taxpayer-funded payments went to the largest and wealthiest 10 percent of farm operations and landlords. Interestingly, 62% of American farmers do not receive any direct payments from the federal farm subsidy system, and that group includes most livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers. Thus, they would not be affected by the Responsible Farming Act of 2012.
So who are some of the people that receive Conservation Subsidies … well, the Sheldon Family Farm LLC … which is partially owned by Vicky Sheldon Kline … the bride of John Kline.
Actually, there are a number of other Republican Members of Congress who participate in USDA programs, so John Kline is not standing alone.
Instead, the House Agriculture Committee has approved a bill that would cut more than $33 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps — the program provides a monthly benefit of about $200 a person to households at or below 130 percent of the poverty level).
The reasoning – Ag subsidies need to be in place for when record-high prices “inevitably” fall, and that higher prices have actually increased risks for farmers … okay, so that may rationalize commodity-based subsidies … but how does that work for Conservation Subsidies ?
Politics or unnecessary spending ?
Well, let’s remember that Newt Gingrich often calls President Barack Obama “the food stamp president” and while Mitt Romney said in November that he would send food stamps to the state level along with other government programs like Medicaid.
So while, the House Republicans pushes YouCut as a marketing tool to excite their supporters, the House Republicans are just ignoring Billions that could be used to lower spending … because the risk of angering a reliable voting block is too strong.
Yep, preserve a Safety Net for farmers … but not a Safety Net for those that need it.
It’s time for an honest discussion of Ag Subsidies … denying Food Stamps while protecting largest and wealthiest 10 percent of farm operations and landlords is not good fiscal policy.