Thursday, June 20, 2013

Short: Funny Farm bill

So the Senate passed a farm bill 66-27. But the House, riven by excessive partisanship, couldn't pass the bill supported by the not-all-powerful leadership. Nothing surprising or particularly interesting there.

However, I noticed this comment:
Why do they call this the "farm bill?" It is mainly SNAP funding these days, and nominally related to crop payments. Sure, the Ag department administers it, but it is really a welfare bill.
Is this a fake talking point, or the truth? Well, I looked it up, and it's true--67% of the farm bill is for food stamps. Wow.

Not that I'm totally surprised. I've noted the increase in food stamp expenditures before, and I've heard first hand of recipients selling the excess food stamps for cash. It sounds to me like a program that should be trimmed. But I'm still surprised that the food stamp give-aways outstrip the farm subsidies give-aways.

I use the pejorative term "give-aways" ironically, but that's how many see one or both programs. For my part, I want a strong agricultural sector in this country. Farmers deserve extra cushioning because we depend on them for our food, and they depend on fickle weather. I would support my doctor if she had a bad year with everyone healthy and no one visiting her (which doesn't happen) because I want her around rain or shine. I feel the same way about farmers.

The welfare program that supplies food stamps (now called SNAP for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is quite a different issue. It should be separated from the agriculture bills. But there's probably an "I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine" aspect to the bundling. Pols with a rural constituency team up with pols with a poor, urban constituency to make sure they both get their subsidies. Now that's a win-win proposition!


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