This column was written by Townhall.com intern Kyle Bonnell
Every vote in Congress can be viewed as an opportunity to either increase liberty or increase government. Right now, the Senate appears poised to choose the latter as they prepare to vote on the 2012 Farm Bill.
The 1,000-page bill that Senators Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts are pushing through the Senate is chock full of massive spending, new entitlements, and new regulations. With corporate welfare and generous subsidies thrown in for good measure, the bill reflects everything wrong with out-of-control government. No wonder Congress is sporting a 17 percent approval rating these days.
The farm bill is another in a long line of government boondoggles that simply builds on the big expenditures of a previous bill. The CBO estimates that the 2012 farm bill will up spending to $969 billion over the next ten years. Locking in at those levels in the midst of a debt crisis and credit downgrade is beyond fiscally irresponsible. Overall, the Senate farm bill punts on the opportunity to contribute to deficit reduction and shows a startling lack of political courage.
The 2012 farm bill’s most noticeable “reform” is the elimination of direct payments to farmers. In its place is a new entitlement program most commonly referred to as “shallow loss,” a new federal crop insurance program. It’s meant to serve as an income safety net that will automatically trigger payments to farmers when their crop yields fall below 90% of their average levels over the past five years. However, the past five years have seen a spike in crop yields, meaning that shallow loss is locking in rates that are due to fall. It’s unnecessary corporate welfare, despite what the farm lobby claims. According to the American Enterprise Institute:
“The current average debt-to-asset ratio in the farm sector is less than 9 percent and has been declining steadily over the past decade. Moreover, farms fail at a rate of less than one in two hundred a year, and, from a financial perspective, farms are better placed than almost any sector of the economy to handle year-to-year variations in revenues and costs by themselves. Yet, effectively, farmers want a tax payer-funded guarantee that their revenues will never fall below about 90 percent of their recent levels.