2012 Senate Farm Bill Does More Harm Than Good
Craig Cox, Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Environmental Working Group, offered this initial take on the just released Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 farm bill.
“The 2012 farm bill should do more to support family farmers, protect the environment, promote healthy diets and support working families. Unfortunately, the bill produced today by the Senate Agriculture Committee will do more harm than good. It needlessly sacrifices conservation and feeding assistance programs to finance unlimited insurance subsidies and a new entitlement program for highly profitable farm businesses. Rather than simply ending the widely discredited direct payment program, the Senate Agriculture Committee has created an expensive new entitlement program that guarantees most of the income of farm businesses already enjoying record profits. Replacing direct payments with a revenue guarantee program is a cynical game of bait-and-switch that should be rejected by Congress.
“The proposed legislation doubles down on unlimited subsidies to buy and deliver farm insurance – at a cost of $90 billion over the next ten years. Modest reforms to these heavily subsidized insurance programs, such as means-testing and capping premium subsidies, would save enough money to spare conservation and anti-hunger programs from the proposed cuts. Crop insurance has not only become an expensive new subsidy for large farm businesses, it has also become an entitlement program for insurance agents and insurers, including companies based in tax havens such as Bermuda and Switzerland.
“EWG is disappointed that the Committee failed to address the impact of fence-row to fence-row agricultural production, which is putting unprecedented pressure on our land, water and wildlife. Although the Committee extended conservation compliance to the revenue guarantee program, we are disappointed that the Committee failed to require that farmers protect wetlands, grasslands and soil health in exchange for insurance subsidies. In combination, a new entitlement program, unlimited secret insurance subsidies, cuts to conservation programs and high commodity prices will create powerful incentives to plow up fragile wetlands and grasslands and erase many of the environmental gains made by agriculture in recent years.
“We applaud the provisions in the bill that create and expand programs that support healthy diets and organic farmers, as well as expanding links between local farmers and consumers. We also support efforts to reform conservation programs to get more conservation bang for the buck.
“But for the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), this proposal would have been far worse. We look forward to working with Sen. Stabenow and other members of the Committee to strengthen conservation and nutrition provisions of the bill and to place reasonable limits on subsidies for highly-profitable farm businesses.”
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