The 2018 farm bill does too much to artificially support the agricultural sector, according to two Republican lawmakers.
“By subsidizing crops, subsidizing the insurance of these crops, we end up with surpluses of one commodity at the expense of a shortage of other crops that should have and could have and would have been planted but weren’t because government masked the signals that market consumers were sending to those producers,” Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said at an event at The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday.
According to a report from Daren Bakst, a senior research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation, the $867 billion farm bill, which authorizes spending for farm programs and policy, as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, keeps or increases government assistance to agricultural producers.
The safety net programs in the bill, according to Bakst, cost taxpayers approximately $15 billion per year, “but the costs of subsidies go beyond the fiscal costs.”
“Because these signals are no longer being sent from consumers but are being sent by government, it shouldn’t surprise us that individuals with over-sized influence in government make out very well,” McClintock said.
The California lawmaker did say that he supports the changes to SNAP that are included in the farm bill.
“The measure does make some improvements in SNAP, namely limiting categorical eligibility to those actually receiving benefits in other programs and extending the work requirement to able-bodied adults … But it does nothing to limit SNAP to basic food commodities and opts instead to pay bonuses for fruits and vegetables while continuing to fund purchases of junk foods,” McClintock said.
The current bill, however, would exempt at least 2 million able-bodied adults without dependents if they reside in a “labor surplus area” or a community with above-average unemployment, according to a report from The Heritage Foundation.
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., also praised the changes to SNAP included in the farm bill, but said he was disappointed by other parts of the legislation.
“The committee passed bills that created new loopholes that make it easier for those wealthy farmers to receive subsidies while at the same time rolling back commonsense limits and means testing,” Norman said.
To address his own concerns with the farm bill, Norman said he has introduced his own bill that includes reforms he says President Donald Trump has called for.
“It reduces subsidies on crop insurance premiums by 15 percent across the board,” Norman said. “Under current law, we the taxpayers cover, on average, 62 percent of the total premiums for crop insurance.”
Norman says his bill would save taxpayers approximately $28.6 billion over the next 10 years.
McClintock said he is concerned about the current farm bill because it increases government dependency.
“When government interferes in the pricing … it is corrupting the data that is necessary to ensure that every dollar in the economy is spent to its highest and best use,” McClintock said.
“When that happens, the productive center becomes more and more dependent on and beholden to the government, and both our political and economic systems become riddled with cronyism, corruption, and inefficiencies, and that’s what we continue to see in the farm bill now before us.”