As the Washington Post observed, this summer’s “brutal weather is manna from heaven for the agriculture lobby and its amen chorus on Capitol Hill.” The paper laments the drought is providing the “perfect excuse” for lawmakers to push Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) “into speeding consideration of a subsidy-rich, five-year farm bill!”
Last week, a dozen leading conservative groups – including Heritage Action – called on Speaker Boehner “to resist special interest calls to misuse the current drought to lock taxpayers into a trillion dollars worth of bad agriculture policy.” Even the New York Times agreed, writing, “there is no reason to rush forward with a bad farm bill just because of the drought.”
And “bad” is an understatement when it comes to this incarnation of the farm bill. It would spend nearly $1,000,000,000,000 (yes, trillion!) over the next decade, while locking in stimulus-level food stamp spending and promoting even more reckless farming practices. As the Washington Post editorial noted, the current federally subsidized crop insurance regime “encourages farmers to cultivate marginal land and engage in other risky practices, knowing that taxpayers will, in effect, bail them out.”
That is, in effect, what is happening with the emergency drought legislation the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will consider this week.
The cost of the emergency legislation – as rumored Friday – is roughly $300 million. In Washington terms, this is a relatively paltry sum of money, the equivalent to just 41 minutes of federal spending. We will surely hear that argument this week, as the legislation hits the House floor. But remember, it is that mentality – it’s ONLY a few hundred million dollars – that has us careening towards $16 trillion in debt.
More to the point, though, is that the need for emergency legislation is somewhat suspect.