6 Strikes Against the House Farm Bill
Every federal farm bill is a chance to feed hungry Americans, build healthier diets, support family farmers and reduce farm pollution.
But the partisan bill put forth by the House Agriculture Committee this month fails on all counts. More than 40 million Americans struggle with hunger; obesity rates are rising; and millions drink water fouled by fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste, but the House bill would just make those problems worse.
Here are six strikes against H.R. 2, the Agricultural and Nutrition Act of 2018:
- The Rich Get Richer – The House farm bill creates new loopholes that further tilt farm subsidies toward the largest, most successful farm businesses and away from small family farmers. The bill would allow cousins, nieces and nephews of farmers to receive subsidies even if they don’t live or work on the farm. A recent report by the Department of Agriculture found that the share of subsidies claimed by the biggest farms has tripled since 1991, and H.R. 2 would make this problem worse.
- The Poor Get Poorer – The same bill that enriches the largest and most successful farmers will also cause more than 1 million low-income households – more than 2 million people, including working families with children – to lose their food-assistance benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or have them reduced. The bill includes unworkable job training requirements that will place new burdens on states and leave many poor Americans without food assistance.
- Drinking Water Gets Dirtier – The House farm bill cuts conservation spending by $800 million, including programs designed to protect drinking water from farm pollution. Although the bill includes some reforms, these provisions are outweighed by proposed cuts and new pesticide safety loopholes.
- Diets Get Less Healthy – While the House farm bill increases funding for SNAP recipients who shop at farmers markets, the bill eliminates funding for other programs that help finance farmers markets and help farmers build local markets for healthy products. The bill also cuts funding for programs that help organic farmers.
- Rural America Gets Left Behind – At the very same moment Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was hosting a conference on the importance of broadband internet to rural America, the House Agriculture Committee was voting to cut USDA rural development funding by more than $500 million. The House bill also cuts funding from programs to help farmers produce more renewable energy.
- States Get Sidelined – The House farm bill included a sweeping amendment from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that would broadly preempt state and local food and farm laws, including food safety and food labeling laws. Although intended to block a new California animal welfare law, the King amendment would wipe away thousands of state and local laws regulating everything from invasive pests to fishing.