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Senate Set to Debate the Farm Bill, EWG Presses for Reforms

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, December 10, 2007

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2007 – After weeks of haggling, the Senate is set to deliberate on the 2007 Farm Bill. The Environmental Working Group, along with a diverse coalition of groups, is advocating for reform of wasteful government spending in farm programs.

“A number of Farm Bill amendments will give senators the chance to vote for the status quo of continued, wasteful taxpayer handouts to the biggest and wealthiest farming operations in the country, or to support sensible, forward-looking reforms. A series of amendments would protect the environment, support the family farmer and rural economies, help feed the neediest among us, and provide taxpayer relief,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

Cook identified the following reforms as crucial to a forward-thinking Farm Bill:

  • End unlimited subsidies to mega-farms. The Dorgan-Grassley amendment would place a firm subsidy cap of $250,000 per farm to stop unlimited payments to plantation-scale farm businesses that use money from taxpayers to get even bigger and squeeze out their smaller neighbors.
  • Ask the wealthy to farm on their own dime. The Klobuchar-Durbin-Brown amendment would improve the agriculture committee’s indefensibly weak means test to make sure the wealthiest people in the country don’t tap into programs meant to help small family farms.
  • Trim the fat from insurance company subsidies. The Brown-Sununu-McCaskill Reduction of Excess Subsidies to Crop Underwriters (RESCU) amendment ends the gouging taxpayers have endured from big crop insurance companies and invests the money in national priorities.
  • Reduce “direct payment” subsidies to farmers already doing well. Most crop farmers will earn record incomes this year and are projected to do so over the course of the farm bill, largely as a consequence of the ethanol boom that Congress is about to overheat further with a new fuel mandate in the energy bill. Taxpayers are not obliged to provide automatic “direct payment” subsidies when the recipients are flourishing in the marketplace, especially when other important Farm Bill programs are under-funded.
  • Provide taxpayer support to all farmers when they need it. The Lugar-Lautenburg Farm, Ranch, Equity, Stewardship, and Health (FRESH) amendment would change the face of subsidies as we know it. The FRESH amendment provides all, not just commodity crop, farmers with modest taxpayer support when they demonstrate need. Savings from FRESH would reduce the deficit, help farmers solve environmental problems, and provide more for critical nutrition programs.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The group’s farm subsidy database can be found at mulchblog.com.

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