Thanks to the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the farm bill that passed the House this week and will likely pass the Senate next week has some positive features, including new conservation requirements for farm businesses that collect crop insurance subsidies and more funding for local and organic farmers. But those important provisions are outweighed by new, expanded and largely unlimited subsidies that do too much to help the largest and most successful farm operations at the expense of family farmers and the environment.
In particular, the final farm bill:
- May Increase Farm Subsidies – Although the Congressional Budget Office estimates that annual spending on traditional farm subsidies will fall, the final bill includes price and revenue guarantees that will almost certainly cost more than expected.
- Rejects Reasonable Subsidy Limits – The final bill fails to include reasonable limits on traditional farm subsidies approved by both the House and Senate, and it fails to include a means-testing provision that reduces insurance subsidies for the largest producers. That provision was twice approved by the Senate and endorsed by a House resolution.
- Increases Insurance Subsidies – The final bill increases crop insurance subsidies by nearly $6 billion by allowing farm businesses to guarantee revenue and creating new, supercharged insurance programs for peanut and cotton farmers. The bill also locks in subsidies for insurance companies and agents.
- Cuts Nutrition Assistance – Roughly 850,000 poor Americans are likely to face reductions in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. At a time of record farm income – and at a time when 47 million Americans depend on SNAP to put food on the table – the final bill cuts SNAP as much as the bill cuts farm subsidies.
- Cuts Conservation Funding – Although the bill includes important policy reforms, the final bill cuts nearly $4 billion from programs that reward good stewardship.
- Rejects Transparency – Unlike all other farm subsidy programs, the bill keeps secret the names of farm businesses that benefit from insurance subsidies. The final bill continues to deny taxpayers the right to know where their money is going. Legislators even discarded a House provision disclosing which members of Congress collect these subsidies.