The Senate has approved their version of the 2012 Farm Bill with a 64-35 vote today. Senate Republicans, including Dick Lugar, accounted for 16 of the 64 affirmative votes.
The Farm Bill was sold as a bi-partisan, budget cutting piece of legislation. In reality, the bill fails to make any meaningful cuts to the food stamp program or farm subsidies. The bill is another in a long line of bi-partisan deals that will lock in big spending and pages of regulations. In this case the price tag is $969 billion, with 1,000 pages to empower DC bureaucrats. The Democrat and Republican co-sponsors, Senators Stabenow and Roberts, played up an estimated $24 billion savings from the elimination of direct payments to farmers. Unfortunately, the direct payments were replaced by a program that will likely be every bit as costly – shallow loss.
“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.”
Senator McCain, who voted against the bill, rightly noted that "Unfortunately, it seems that Congress' idea of farm bill reform is to eliminate one subsidy program only to invent a new one to take its place."
The Senate’s passage of the 2012 Farm Bill is not the end of the story, however. The House will likely take up the farm bill in the coming months. Fortunately, indications are that the House will insist on real reform to both SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and farm subsidies. The Farm Bill process will take time to play out, but one has to hope that the end product will be better than the boondoggle of a bill that the Senate just passed.
This post was authored by Kyle Bonnell, a Townhall.com editorial intern.