Friday, May 16, 2008

2008 Farm Bill Passes

Well, the 2008 Farm Bill was finally passed yesterday by the Senate 81-15 and in the House earlier with 318 yes votes. That means that there will be no veto from the President and a bill that was supposed to be done a couple years ago will finally be signed. But, is it a good farm bill? I have been trying to follow as much as I can, especially when there was talk of letting CRP acres out early, and have just a few thoughts after reading THIS ARTICLE from I would also be interested in hearing your thoughts on the new Farm Bill.
About two-thirds of the bill would pay for domestic nutrition programs such as food stamps and emergency food aid for the needy. An additional $40 billion is for farm subsidies, while almost $30 billion would go to farmers to idle their land and to other environmental programs.
-There is where the money is going. I guess I don't have too much to say about that one that wouldn't possibly get me in trouble so I will just throw it out for informational purposes. Although, I wish they would knock a few bucks off of that $30 billion for environmental programs and let me take my land out ... I feel like a properly managed grazing system would be better that just a bunch of scrub brush taking over a pasture.
But drastic cuts to subsidies were not possible, lawmakers said, because of the clout of Southern lawmakers who represent rice and cotton farms that are more expensive to run.
-Gotta keep everyone happy I guess, but the only way that we can get rid of subsidies is to slowly wean people off of them. Maybe next time...
"This bill has reform in it," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Could we have done more? Perhaps. But if we'd done more we wouldn't have gotten a bill."
-I love that quote ... "Could we have done more? Perhaps." Yep, sounds like a lot of thought about what is actually best was put into this bill.
The farm bill also would eliminate some federal payments to individuals with more than $750,000 in annual farm income — or married farmers who make more than $1.5 million.
-Government money for farmers who make $750,000. I realize we are addicted to cheap food and it is the subsidies that keeps stuff cheap, but at what point do we realize that it may be a little absurd?

There is a lot more stuff in the bill of course and you can read about some of it in the article, but these are just a few of the things that really stuck out to me. So, what do you think?


Yeoman said...

The biggest single problem with this bill is that it operates as an income redistribution bill, more than anything else.

The problem with that is that average people have to be taxed in order to do that. I'm not totally opposed to some income redistribution, but I do think that Congress should be extremely careful about forcing money out of the hands of John and Jane Doe and giving it to anyone else. Taxation is a power that is very easy to abuse.

Beyond that, this bill does nothing to address what are really deep seated systemic problems. And those problems are:

1. We have a land development problem in this country which is based on the 18th Century philosophy that "there's always more land". There isn't; and

2. We've subsidized urban development through very favorable loan policies, and we're not reinforcing that by letting lenders know if they make fraudulent or unwise loans, it's okay, because they'll be bailed out with public money (that taxation thing again); and

3. We've become so use to largeness in all things that we've created a corporate environment encouraging trusts, and discouraging individual ownership of business. This applies to nearly ever walk of life (gone to any family owned grocery stores lately, or appliance stores?), but it is particularly problematic here.

All these could be addressed at almost not cost to the taxpayer, and the great benefit of average folks and farmers. This sort of program would:

1. Prevent agricultural land ownership by corporations that have shareholders who do not derive at least 50% of their income from the farm. That'd eliminate your fat cat ag entities overnight.

2. Prevent expansion of urban areas into farm land. Sounds harsh, but by at least European standards, nearly all American cities are very underdeveloped. There's generally support for it too.

3. Bust up the big consumer distributors in favor of smaller ones. Same thing with ag production companies. Better to deal with Bob Archer, Fred Daniels, and Susan Midland, than ADM.

That would be a true farm bill, which would redirect things to allow small family producers to compete. Some would still fail, but it wouldn't be too to the system, but due to other causes.

Steven said...

I agree with everything you said. I don't think that enough people understand that the government doesn't just HAVE money to give away... it has to TAKE that money from you, me, and all other working American.

Yeoman said...

I agree with everything you said. I don't think that enough people understand that the government doesn't just HAVE money to give away... it has to TAKE that money from you, me, and all other working American."

Steven, I agree. I am not a tax radical by any means, but it seems to me that it nearly completely escapes the attention of the public, and most particularly of Congress, that the basic nature of taxes is an acknowledgment that you, the individual taxpayers, has the money, and that you have to give it up against your will or desire to be used by the government.

Now, I freely acknowledge that we need a government, and that many of the things that the government does for us are necessary. I want, for example, the government to pay for the military. And I'd like a good FAA, etc.

But, at the end of the day, they're taking my money for these things.

So, as part of it, spending this money should really have some thought put into it. And when it begins to become income redistribution, I become concerned.

For that matter, there's a lot of thing the Federal government spends money on that are a little shocking when you consider that they don't earn the money, they just take it. For example, funding all sorts of things through the goodness of your heart, or because they seem to be a good idea to you, are one things. Those expenditures may make you a very nice person, or perhaps a foolish person, but that's certainly your right. You don't have the right, on the other hand, to fund things you think worthwhile by walking over to your neighbors house and taking 25% of his gross income. That'd be wrong.

For these reasons, when we look at policies we desire, such as "we want family farmers", or "we want to preserve open spaces", and so on, I'm much more in favor of simple bright line statutes. It's much easier, and honest, to say "you Americans can do this", or "you Americans cannot do that", than it is to say "we'll take a bunch of your money here, give some of it back to you there so you'll hopefully do this, and encourage Mr. Y to do that by giving some of your money to him. . ."

Ethan Book said...

The thing about the subsidies and the farm policy in general keeping food prices low like people desire is that it takes taxation from the same people to make it happen ... so, I guess you are paying the higher food prices anyways to a certain extent.

Good thoughts Yeoman.

Steven said...

Yeah, that's right Ethan, and shuffling the money around isn't free. For example just sending out the notices to people to tell them to expect a stimulus check cost around 42 million and in the earned income tax credits BILLIONS are lost in the swap of money from the tax payers to the people that get the credits. This redistribution of income actually has a net loss of money that many never consider also.

Rich said...

"...two-thirds of the bill would pay for domestic nutrition programs such as food stamps and emergency food aid...$40 billion is for farm subsidies, ...$30 billion would go to farmers to idle their land and to other environmental programs..."

By my math, the total bill is $210 billion, and only $40 billion is actually going to farmers (personally, I don't think that the $30 billion is "technically" going to further the needs of farmers).

$40 billion out of $210 billion means payments to farmers are only about 20% of the total bill and payments towards food programs are about 66%, so why isn't it called the Food Stamp Bill or the Feeding the Needy Bill instead of the Farm Bill?

Yeoman is absolutely right, these bills are about income redistribution (as are most pieces of legislation coming out of Washington), and controlling people's actions.

I mentioned in a comment before about my grandfather growing barley to feed pigs, but the only reason he was growing barley is because some pointy headed bureaucrats were setting farm policy at the time and had decreed that only a certain amount of wheat could be planted. Even though this part of the country is suited to grow wheat, he was growing things like cotton and barley because he was limited in how much wheat could be planted. Now, bureaucrats are murmuring about requiring methods like no-till planting (because they know what is best), even though it would require new equipment, spraying more chemicals, and isn't always suited to all farmland or situations.

In the original post you stated: "...but the only way that we can get rid of subsidies is to slowly wean people off of them..."

Washington will never get rid of farm subsidies (or things like CRP payments), because they would also have to reduce the funding spent on programs like food stamps and food aid for the needy. How ridiculous would they look if they passed a "Farm Bill" that had 85% of the funding going to areas like the food stamps program?

Steven said...

They would only look a little more ridiculous than when they pass a "Farm Bill" that has 66% of the money going towards food programs.

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