Farm Bill Irks Conservatives with Food Stamp Allocations

The Heritage Foundation is calling to limit subsidies to include only farmers with adjusted gross incomes below $250,000 and to eliminate the direct payments program altogether. The direct payments program pays producers making less than $750,000 annually regardless of whether a farmer’s land is fallow or they sell their product for high prices. “There is no justification for subsidizing farmers who do not grow crops, or to subsidize farmers regardless of their income. Both the House and Senate bills last year would have eliminated direct payments—evidence of broad recognition that these programs should be eliminated,” the primer reads.

Heritage also wants to cap the crop insurance program and separate food stamps from agriculture programs.

“We’re subsidizing, left right and sideways,” said Andrew Moylan, outreach director and senior fellow at the R St. Institute. “We’re talking about a bill that’s as big as Obamacare.”

“We have near-record farm incomes, commodity prices. … We have very low farm failure rates, … And we have near-record fiscal challenges,” said Moylan. “And what is the response of Senate and House Ag Committees  … peanuts.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that direct spending authorized by the House version would total $940 billion during 2014-2023.

The split within the Republican Party grows stronger as the Farm Bill inches closer to law.

“Farmers and ranchers need the certainty that comes from a five-year Farm Bill,” said Cochran, ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We have tried to be fair to those affected by this bill, as well as to those who pay the bill.”

“This draft, in my judgment represents a step backward for Ag policy,” said Johanns. “Instead of moving forward with a free market type system, what this farm bill does, is it doubles down on something called, target prices, which is really a subsidy for certain commodities. … The government should not be involved in setting prices for commodities. The government should not be involved in raising target prices, which is exactly what's happening.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a bill that would permanently suspend the application of agricultural price support authority to certain commodities, particularly milk and the “dairy cliff.”

“In the upcoming weeks, the Senate will be pressured to yet again pass a Farm Bill in an effort to avoid another ‘cliff’,” said Paul. “With my legislation, we can avoid passing bills contingent upon ‘cliffs’ and scare tactics. Instead of rushing to pass laws in order to avert public panic, we can focus on making bills better.”

Two amendments to the House version that made it into the bill were from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). One would prevent states from enacting laws that place conditions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within its own borders, but are produced in other states.

"The Constitution of the United States reserves the regulation of interstate commerce to the Congress, not the states," said King.

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) voted against the committee bill.

“As past president of the Ohio Farm Bureau, I believe that agriculture policy should be based on market-driven principles,” said Gibbs. “Including language for dairy farmers that effectively equates to supply management is the exact opposite of a free market system. Ohio dairy farmers need to be able to grow with the market, and artificially setting limits on the milk they can produce will only keep them more dependent on government subsidies.”

But Moylan thinks there is a chance to secure “real reforms” from committee to the floor where amendments can be added. “When you look at the federal budget, there is no lower-hanging fruit. There is a long decades-old consensus to agricultural reform.”