To the disappointment of those who wanted to see reform and fiscal responsibility prevail, Debbie Stabenow’s (D-Mich.) farm bill passed in the Senate on Thursday with a vote of 64-35. The proposed bill fails to reform certain programs like sugar, makes other wasteful programs like dairy even worse, and creates a whole new entitlement program for farmers, while spending 60 percent more than the last farm bill and only cutting a paltry $23 billion from the deficit over the next ten years. This farm bill will leave a wide path of destruction behind it: consumer prices will increase, costly entitlement programs will bloat, and market distortions will continue to run wild.
Americans for Tax Reform and numerous other organizations called for actual reform and spending cuts that would shrink government’s involvement in agriculture and chip away at our country’s massive deficit.
After hundreds of amendments were put forward, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid allowed for a bundle of 73 to be voted on for the past 3 days in the Senate. Unsurprisingly, most of the best, free-market oriented amendments failed. Americans for Tax Reform highlighted some amendments that would attempt to correct some of the atrocities of the bill. The Lee Motion to Recommit, for example, would save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars by returning the current farm bill (which spends $969 billion) to 2008 spending levels (which spent about $600 billion). This amendment was unfortunately rejected. The Toomey Amendment, that would have brought much needed free-market reform to sugar programs, was also rejected.
However, showing some of the hoped for reform, an amendment by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) passed that will means test crop insurance premium subsidies. The amendment, which reduced subsidies by 15 percent for farmers with an adjusted gross income of more than $750,000, garnered 66 votes. Showing their support for crony capitalism and a reluctance to cut spending, Sen. Stabenow and two-thirds of her Senate Agriculture Committee members voted against the amendment.
Senator Stabenow said, “This Farm Bill is unlike any other before it—it cuts spending, ends subsidies, improves accountability and strengthens healthy food systems. We are now closer than ever to achieving real reform in America’s agriculture policy.” This is false rhetoric. The trillion-dollar farm bill spends 60 percent more than its predecessor, enacts a new subsidy entitlement program for agri-business, and lacks any real reform. Programs that needed complete overhaul were left alone and amendments that could have corrected these oversights were struck down.