Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Secret Farm Bill

One positive thing that has come out of the inept super committee negotiations is the inability for the so-called "Secret Farm Bill" to pass.

The four senators who were drafting this secret legislation were aiming at $23 billion in cuts, with around $14 billion coming from commodity subsidies, $6 billion from conservation programs, and $3 billion from nutrition programs like food stamps. To put this in perspective, about $60 billion is spent annually on Farm Bill expenditures: 67% of that is spent on food and nutrition programs (i.e., Food Stamps, WIC, national school lunch and breakfast programs, food bank programs, farmers market programs, among others), 15% is spent on commodity subsidies, 8% is spent on conservation programs and the remaining 10% is spent on various other programs, like research, forestry, energy, commodities futures, etc. This spending breakdown is a fact I think few people are aware of - that the nation's Farm Bill really operates like a Food and Nutrition Bill.

Normally, the Farm Bill is up for negotiation and renewal every 5 years, and the problem with the possible passing of the secret version was that all of the hard work advocacy groups have put into drafting innovative, progressive programs to implement in the 2012 version (e.g., the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, and numerous land conservation programs) would be put on hold for another 5 years without even being heard by our fully-elected legislature.

So, a small victory at the expense of an embarrassing display of partisan politics.

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