Were we directed from Washingtonwhen to sow, when to reap, we should soon want bread.

— Thomas Jefferson

The federal government hasn’t stuck its nose into when to plant crops (yet, anyway), butJefferson’s warning is worth remembering as another farm bill chugs through Congress this year. Federal lawmakers are planning, yet again, to micromanage food production instead of allowing the market to determine what farmers grow and Americans eat.

The farm bill, laughably named the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, “enjoys strong bipartisan support,” reports Heritage’s Brian Darling. Of course it does, since it allows lawmakers to direct federal spending toward people and programs they favor. How much spending? “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates this bill will cost taxpayers $969 billion over the next 10 years,” Darling reports. That’s some 40 percent more spending than the 2008 farm bill contained.

Surprisingly little of this spending goes to farms, though. More than $750 billion is slated to go to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That’s food stamps.

“Since 2000, the number of Americans on food stamps has jumped by roughly 260 percent, from 17.2 million to 44.7 million in 2011,” writes Heritage’s Rachel Sheffield.

One reason for the growth: “States have a built-in incentive to bulk up on Food Stamp participants,” Darling writes. “The more participants they have, the more money they get from the federal government.”  Policies like “categorical eligibility,” “which ignores income and asset limitations in granting food stamps to people receiving cash welfare assistance, also contributes to the significant growth.

To tackle the growing cost and burgeoning roles, Congress should take steps to get spending under control and reform food stamps into a work activation program. This can be accomplished by returning Food Stamp spending to pre-recession levels once the current recession ends and then capping future spending. Additionally, all non-elderly, able-bodied recipients should be required to work, look for work, or prepare to enter the workforce.

“America’s growing welfare state is creating a system of increased dependence and contributing to a growing federal debt,”Sheffieldconcludes. “Helping the poor should mean promoting individual freedom through self-reliance rather than creating dependence through an unsustainable government dole.”