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AgMag BLOG

Feeding your mind, saving the planet >>

Fincher’s Farm Bill

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There’s only one name that suits the farm bill that will be debated on the floor of the House today: Fincher’s Farm Bill.

That’s because the bill is designed to help farmers like Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), the notorious member of the House Agriculture Committee who cited the Bible to champion cuts to anti-hunger programs while pocketing more than $3.4 million in farm subsidies himself.

As you may recall, Fincher (incorrectly) quoted a passage from Thessalonians to support cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), saying, “the one unwilling to work will not eat.”

Fincher went on to lecture his colleagues that:

There is not a big printing press in Washington that continually prints money over and over.  This is other people’s money that Washington is appropriating and spending.

Fincher, of course, is happy to make good use of the “people’s money” himself, collecting more than $70,000 in 2012 alone. By comparison, the average monthly SNAP payment in 2012 was just $133.41.

Fincher’s Farm Bill needlessly cuts SNAP by $20 billion – while expanding farm subsidy programs that benefit cotton farmers like Fincher. 

In particular, Fincher’s Farm Bill extends for two more years – at least for cotton farmers like Fincher – the so-called “transition payments” that were created in 1996 to wean farmers off subsidies but instead became a costly entitlement. As The Washington Post reported, extension of these subsidies, called direct payments, in the 2002 and 2008 farm bills has cost the taxpayers an extra $46 billion.

But that’s not all. Fincher’s Farm Bill also creates a new supercharged crop insurance subsidy program just for cotton farmers like Fincher. For most farmers who qualify for crop insurance subsidies, USDA provides roughly two-thirds of their premiums. But that’s not good enough for cotton farmers like Fincher. The House farm bill’s new “STAX” insurance program, created especially for cotton farmers, would pay a lavish 80 percent of their insurance premiums.

The gravy train doesn’t stop there. Fincher’s Farm Bill also increases price guarantees for major crops such as cotton. While the guarantees would raise the price floor for corn and soybeans to more than 80 percent of the average market price, the price floor for cotton would actually be raised to more than 100 percent of the average market price.

To help pay for Fincher’s Farm Bill, the House Agriculture Committee wants to kick more than 2 million low-income Americans off SNAP anti-hunger benefits and eliminates free school meals for more than 200,000 poor kids.

Of course, that’s not enough for some of Fincher’s friends. They’ve filed more than a dozen amendments to make even deeper cuts to SNAP, require recipients to undergo drug tests and present photo IDs and also require them to work. (Never mind that most SNAP households already have one working adult).

Rather than writing a farm bill for farmers like Rep. Fincher, the House should write a farm bill that helps family farmers and that protects taxpayers, consumers, and the environment. In particular, the House should support amendments to eliminate cuts to SNAP and to instead cut subsidies for the largest and most profitable farms.