The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The 2013 Farm Bill - An Opportunity for Serious Waste Reduction

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Although some progress was made last year toward passing a new, five-year Farm Bill, taxpayers should for once be thankful that lawmakers were unable to do their jobs, as the legislation left many programs largely unreformed and opened the door for additional wasteful spending.  This week, both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are scheduled to mark up draft versions of the Farm Bill.  Instead of simply tinkering around the edges of the bills that were introduced during the last Congress, lawmakers should seize the opportunity to "go big" in finding savings for the Farm Bill.

On June 21, 2012, the Senate voted 64-35 in favor of S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012.  S. 3240 would have some eliminated profligate programs, such as the Average Crop Revenue Election program, direct payments, and counter-cyclical payments.  However, the bill did not do nearly enough. Although the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) originally projected that S. 3240 would cut the deficit by $23.1 billion over a 10-year period, CBO re-estimated the savings on March 1, 2013 and reduced the amount by 43 percent to $13.1 billion.

The House version of the Farm Bill in the 112th Congress, H.R. 6083, would have reduced spending by $35.1 billion over 10 years.  The bill included many of the same changes in farm programs proposed in the Senate bill.  The additional savings in the House bill were largely achieved through revisions in the nutrition title, affecting program eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, which accounts for more than 70 percent of the overall Farm Bill.

The House and Senate recently released drafts of their proposed Farm Bills, and the initial picture for taxpayers is not pretty.  Using the dairy portion of the bill as an example, both bills include proposals to replace the current dairy program (already a wasteful arranged of subsidies that artificially inflate prices for consumers) with the onerous Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP).   CCAGW, along with many other free-market organizations, recently released a letter opposing the DMSP, which read in part:

The Farm Bill proposes to replace milk price supports with the DMSP, a program that will result in more frequent and more intrusive government manipulation of milk prices and markets.  Instead of being triggered only occasionally, the DMSP will be in effect whenever dairy farmer profit margins decline, up to 40 percent of the time according to one study.    Like price supports, the DMSP would manage both supply and demand for milk in order to keep prices artificially high.  Consumers will pay even more for dairy products, government funds will be wasted on dairy purchases, and dairy industry and job growth will be stunted.  Taxpayers and consumers can visit YourMilkMoney.org for more information on the issue.

After last year’s failed effort to reform America’s outdated agriculture policies, the 2013 Farm Bill must not include the same mistaken provisions.  At a time when all Americans, not just farmers, are experiencing financial hardships in a sluggish economy, taxpayers simply cannot afford to prop up a single industry.

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