Kill the Farm Bill

December, 2018

Washington -- There was an opportunity, in mid-November, for Congress to pass a respectable 2018 Farm Bill. The Senate had already passed its bipartisan bill 86-11 and was in conference with a contentious, partisan House bill containing items that could never become law. The mid-term elections foretold a Democratic takeover of the House in January, dooming the House bill provisions.

All the Senate had to do was to hold firm on its bipartisan version and advise the House that the only alternative to accepting the Senate bill was to extend the existing legislation a year and start over next year with a Democratic House. Senate Democrats held leverage in that they could block 2018 action if the House balked.

It didn't happen. The Senate compromised away the bipartisan-sponsored Grassley Amendment, a reform of wasteful subsidies hurting small farmers, in exchange for deleting a House non-starter on the SNAP program. Moreover, USDA will implement the House SNAP provision anyway, by administrative action, and the new conference compromise not only drops the Grassley-Durbin provisions but opens up even more wasteful and counterproductive federal crop subsidies to cousins, nieces, and nephews of farmers.

The subsidy give-aways are so outrageous that six often ideologically opposed groups from the right, left, and center have joined together to bring attention to them: Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Taxpayers Union, R Street Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Environmental Working Group.

The 2018 Farm Bill conference report should be voted down. Extend current law another year and start over. Give America the kind of Farm Bill it needs.

And what can Senate Democrats be thinking, to give up leverage when their party desperately needs a Rural Policy to compete for votes in the heartland? Not to mention looking foolish to compromise away something for nothing.