Policy Plate: House Farm Bill Bad for Taxpayers, Hungry Families and the Environment
Today at the National Press Club, Environmental Working Group and a wide array of public interest organizations, including anti-hunger, public health, labor and animal welfare advocates – took part in a widely covered press conference to highlight the damaging and alarming provisions of the farm bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee.
Scott Faber, EWG’s vice-president for government affairs, had this to say:
“The budget-busting House farm bill will feed fewer people, help fewer farmers, do less to promote healthy diets and weaken environmental protections – and it will cost far more than expected. This bill is Robin Hood in reverse – it cuts funding for nutrition assistance programs like SNAP to help finance even more lavish subsidies for the largest and most successful farmers.
“By cutting more than $16 billion from SNAP and more than $6 billion from environmental programs, the House bill will leave more than 2 million people without enough food to eat and contribute to the loss of millions of acres of wetlands and grasslands. What’s more, the bill guts rules that protect water quality and wetlands from pesticides, weakens federal reviews of biotech crops, and undermines the ability of states to set consumer safety or environmental standards.
“Rather than provide a true safety net for all farmers, the House bill will give every big subsidized grower a raise in the form of higher price guarantees for their crops – at a time when large commercial farms have average household incomes of more than $200,000 a year and net farm income has nearly doubled. Instead of placing reasonable limits on crop insurance subsidies, the Lucas-Peterson proposal actually expands them – at a cost of more than $9 billion. Reasonable reforms such as payment limits, means testing and administrative reforms – which are applied to nutrition assistance but not crop insurance – could save taxpayers more than $20 billion.”
The Food and Environment Reporting Network released an in-depth investigation into the American Farm Bureau Federation, industrial agriculture’s lobby powerhouse. The report says: “In rural areas, the Farm Bureau grooms compliant political candidates, mostly Republicans; it wields the power to dictate outcomes of legislative elections and appointments to powerful state agriculture committees. Then it influences which farm-related bills become law. Along the way, it has become a close second to Monsanto in lobby expenditures for agricultural-related issues, spending nearly $6 million in 2011 – all in the name of ‘farmers.’”
Robert Rapier at Consumer Energy Reports writes that, “I have long felt that one of the biggest threats to the U.S. ethanol industry is a major drought/crop failure in the heart of corn country.” That brings to mind EWG’s prescient 2008 report: Biofuels and Bad Weather – America’s Food to Fuel Gamble.
A paper (PDF) by MIT researchers debunks claims by the corn ethanol industry that their biofuel helps lower gas prices: “We show that they are driven by implausible economic assumptions and spurious statistical correlations.”
Stephanie Paige Ogburn asks in High Country News: What’s Up With Conservation and the Farm Bill?
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