The Farm Bill “Compromise” Doesn’t Make Me Jump for Joy

I don’t pretend to know what’s in the Farm Bill that seems to be headed for the President’s desk. But going by what I’ve read in the news, it seems to be the result of compromise in Congress, and that would be news indeed.

You’ve probably read about the Farm Bill. It includes subsidies to agribusiness giants and millionaire landowners as well as money for such programs as food stamps. And it’s been a bone of contention between Republicans and Democrats for years. Republicans don’t want to provide food for hungry families; Democrats don’t want to subsidize hugely profitable agricultural interests.

You probably know whose side I’m on. I don’t see how anyone can take the food out of children’s mouths to line the pockets of the rich. But I guess that’s not how Republicans see it. From what they’ve been quoted as saying, they think food stamps encourage laziness and subsidies to the rich provide jobs.

Such diametrically opposed views have kept compromise out of reach – until now.

With little media fanfare and less explanation, Congress has agreed on a bill that slashes the food stamps budget and revises the way agricultural interests get government aid.

To me, food for hungry kids should never be a bargaining chip, but I am not a member of Congress. The big shots in Washington are patting themselves on the bat over their big success.

“Today’s bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year Farm Bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net and helps farmers and businesses create jobs,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, the
Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate agriculture committee.

I’m not sure the bill “eliminates unnecessary subsidies.” From what I’ve read, it only changes the ground rules for such corporate welfare.  Those fat cats now have a government “revenue insurance” program to lean on instead of getting those big checks they used to get. With farmers doing better than they have for years, the change is expected to save $19 billion over the next five years.

And there’s an unusual concession from Republicans on the food stamps cuts. Here’s how CNN Money sums it up:

The changes to food stamps would trim $8 billion from the program over the next 10 years, according to congressional aides. That’s less than the $39 billion that Republicans had wanted to cut from the program, but double what Democrats had suggested.

I suppose that’s good news but it doesn’t exactly make my heart sing, especially as the bill makes it harder for families to qualify for food stamps.

Compromise is all very well but sometimes there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. Being half right doesn’t cut it.

Click for the CNN Money report.

Click for farmers’ new insurance program.