You may have heard of some of the teams in the special interest division of the food fight: the Maple Syrup Leafs, the Popcornhuskers, and the Fightin’ Catfish. But as egregious as the specific handouts these teams – er – industries are looking for, the large-scale corporate interests who want special treatment for their specific crops, despite near-record high crop prices and near-record low debt ratios, are even more egregious.
In this corner are the Riceotopes, the Miami Wheat, the Sugarhawks and, of course, the heavily favored Corn Sox. These multi-billion dollar industries expect to keep their profits high, again thanks to taxpayers.
Of course, every industry faces economic “headwinds,” and they must plan accordingly. However, when it comes to food, the federal government insures that the money keeps growing, even if the crops don’t.
For our U.S. Senators, the old systems of subsidies weren’t enough. Their version of the farm bill creates a new shallow-loss insurance scheme known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) to replace direct subsidies. ARC covers revenue losses and can be purchased on top of already existing taxpayer subsidized crop insurance. The results: a revenue guarantee of up to 90%.
Can you imagine if taxpayers ensured 90% of the banking industry’s revenue, even during the 2008 financial meltdown? Americans of all political stripes would be apoplectic about such a misuse of taxpayer funds.
Apparently, farming is the only industry that provides a necessary product.
If it sounds like corporate welfare and cronyism, that’s because it is. And the sad truth is that despite claims of reform, the 2012 farm bill will end up looking a lot like the 2008 farm bill.
The K Street food fighters loaded up the 2008 legislation with so much pork and tax increases that President Bush vetoed the bill (one of his few presidential vetoes). Unfortunately, 100 Republicans joined the Pelosi-led Congress to override that veto.
At the time, the bill’s $604 billion ten-year cost was quietly accepted by Democrats, Republicans, and the media (taxpayers were unaware what had been thrown at them). Now, the bill has grown to $969 billion over ten years, a 62% increase.
And that might not even be the full cost of the bill.