What you see and hear is not always what you get.
years, most Americans have become accustomed to hearing one thing out of
Washington D.C. and seeing something completely different. Legislators
or the President stand in front of cameras and rail on about how cuts to
a program are devastating and will destroy the benefits. What they
forget to mention is that with baseline budgeting, the program’s funding
was raised by perhaps 15 percent before the “devastating” five percent
cut was enacted. The same sort of deception occurs on other programs
where multiple programs are lumped together and the name given to the
bill does not quite describe its focus.
This past week Congress
passed, and President Obama signed into law, the Farm Bill. This is a
$956 billion piece of legislation that took nearly two years to
negotiate and will be in force for the next ten years.
But calling it the Farm Bill is really misleading once a person examines what is being paid for under the programs.
of all, $89.8 billion, or about 9.4 percent, of the funding within the
bill goes directly to farmers in the crop insurance portion of the
program. This portion is an increase from previous years, mainly due to
the agricultural industry’s willingness to give up direct payments -
which often times paid farmers whether they planted a crop or not - and
instead increased the insurance program that protects them during
catastrophic years of flooding or drought. We applaud the farmers for
being willing to make this change, basically insuring that the country
will need not see a wave of farm bankruptcies in an off year.
Farm Bill also calls for $44.4 billion (4.6%) in commodity programs.
This helps to insulate farmers from wild fluctuations in markets and is
also used by the government to encourage certain types of crops being
But here is where the Farm Bill - by name - appears to
venture off the tracks. Roughly $56 billion is allotted for
conservation programs. There is $3.5 billion for promotion of trade
agreements and food aid overseas. Approximately $1.1 billion is set
aside for energy programs such as biofuels and $2.3 billion pays for
administration and other small programs.
But add all that up and
we are still missing the vast majority of the Farm Bill funding. In
fact, we are missing $756 billion or 79.1 percent of the money.
That funding all goes to food stamps and nutrition programs.
out of five dollars in the Farm Bill have nothing to do with farming at
all. In fact, calling this a Food Bill would be much more appropriate
to how the money is being spent.
The real problem today is the
political football that the bill has become over the years. While the
budget deficit grows and the federal debt climbs toward $17 trillion,
voters are starting to pay more and more attention to where funding is
allocated. Many legislators find it much easier to criticize payments to
the farm industry when crop prices are high rather than try to explain
why they voted to decrease funding to the food stamps program. They as
much as admitted the issue just a few months ago when the Farm Bill was
still languishing in committees. Some congressmen suggested cutting
loose the actual farm programs and voting on them separately, leaving
the food stamp program to find funding on its own merits. That plan was
quickly squashed and this compromise bill soon made its way forward.
so the games continue, leaving voters to wonder what is actually in the
legislation that will govern their lives - no matter what the name on