Free Market Groups Speak Out on 2018 Farm Bill

Free Market Groups Speak Out on 2018 Farm Bill

Dec 12, 2018 8 min read

The following comments were released following a press call on the 2018 farm bill held on Dec. 11, 2018:


Daren Bakst, Senior Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation


“House and Senate negotiators managed to take the worst parts of their farm bills and combine it into one disastrous bill.

The bill doesn’t reform the out-of-control farm handout system. In fact, it actually funnels more taxpayer dollars to primarily large agricultural producers and to people who by any reasonable definition are not even farmers.


Those legislators who claim they support free markets and reduced dependence on government should fight for these principles. Unfortunately, this bill is the antithesis of these principles.


The bill doesn’t strengthen food stamp work requirements. Work is critical to promoting human dignity and establishing fairness between the taxpayer providing assistance and the person receiving it. Today's food stamp program does not adequately encourage work-capable beneficiaries to work. Conservative legislators in the House fought for stronger work requirements with their farm bill, but now this new bill drops the House’s food stamp provisions. Why in the world would these legislators now support this farm bill?


The world won’t end if a farm bill isn’t passed. As Congress did last farm bill, it should pass a one-year extension of existing law. Legislators are better off working to achieve true reform next year instead of passing a rushed bill during the lame duck session that would lock in bad policy for five years.”


Read more from Daren here


Nan Swift, Director of Federal Affairs, National Taxpayers Union


“It’s troubling that the House as already scheduled a vote on H.R. 2 when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score is not yet available to the public. In addition to the problematic policies this bill perpetuates - policies that distort market and planting decisions, that benefit the wealthy at the expense of taxpayers, that could pour fuel on the current trade war - the bottom line is that we don’t know what this will ultimately cost.


The farm bill is notoriously hard to score and past estimates have consistently missed the mark, at times on a scale of hundreds of billions of dollars. Variables like yields, natural disasters, economic conditions, consumer behavior, and now trade uncertainty, all have significant impacts on the final cost. That’s why it’s important for CBO to have the necessary time, within a broad historical context for commodity prices not only the past anomalous few years, to paint a more accurate picture of what this bill could cost taxpayers and our economy.


By any estimate, deficits will once-again explode in the coming year and our debt is increasingly unsustainable. Rushing this bill to the floor without a better understanding of the budgetary implications is deeply irresponsible.



So, to be clear, that's what I plan to state on the call. If you are looking for a more comprehensive statement, we have one here."


Allen Benjamin Johnson, III, Director of Government Affairs, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste


“President Nixon’s secretary of agriculture, Earl Butz, said in 1973,“get big or get out.” He urged farmers to buy up their neighbors’ lands. Since then, American agriculture policy has enabled big industrialized farm businesses to triumph over smaller family farms. Big businesses usually receive larger subsidies, so the most powerful farming operations are rewarded.


Earlier this year, on March 15th, the U.S. national debt surpassed $21 trillion. This is more than America's annual economic GDP output.The last time the debt-to-GDP ratio was more than 100 percent was in 1946, when the country had to pay for World War II.This present economic crisis makes a considerable argument for a commonsense roll back of crop insurance subsidies for multi-millionaire corporate farms which don’t need taxpayer money.


The crop insurance program has turned into a huge taxpayer-funded gift for the biggest corporate farms. In a time of record deficits and an incomprehensible $21 trillion in debt, this program is no longer defensible in its current form.


For the last decade, institutional investors have been buying up farmland across the country. Hedge funds, college endowments, and pension funds are all investing in farmland at an alarming rate. Owning farmland has become a new asset class, and potential new family farmers are being priced out of the market before they can ever get in.


This is especially troubling because the average age of farmers in the United States is 59 years-old, and many will be retiring soon. A record amount of land is set to exchange hands. The American Farmland Trust estimates around 400 million acres will change hands in the next 20 years. Policies in this Farm Bill almost guarantee that a majority of those new owners will be the biggest corporate farms owned by multi-millionaires, billionaires, and hedge funds.


Bad policy decisions that are being preserved in this new Farm Bill have encouraged farms to grow larger. There are fewer family farms and fewer sustainable rural communities because of Congress.”


Daniel Savickas, Federal Affairs Manager, FreedomWorks


“This Farm Bill conference report makes no meaningful steps towards fiscal responsibility, but instead lines the pockets of special interests at the expense of American taxpayers and small farmers. Currently, 60 percent of subsidies flow to the top 10 percent of farms by size. This continually props them up, insulates them from market forces, and prevents smaller farmers from gaining market share and access to land. It is frustrating to see lawmakers tout how much this bill helps farmers, when in reality it holds down so many small farms. Members of Congress should stop trying to centrally plan America's agricultural sector, and let farmers thrive on the open market without the thumb of government tipping the scales for rich agri-businesses.


This is merely a continuation, and expansion, of programs that were ushered in during the Great Depression era. This continued government intervention into the economy is counterproductive and wholly unnecessary. Conservatives rightly point out how such intervention stalls economic success in other sectors of the economy. It is nothing but hypocritical to believe the effects will be any different for our nation's farmers. Both chambers had substantial opportunities to pass real reform measures, but these measures were either derided by leadership or shut down in backroom deals. Congress should pass a one year clean re-authorization, so members can have a full year to substantively debate and vote on these crucial measures, and pass a free market Farm Bill to benefit all Americans.”


Caroline Kitchens, Director of Federal Government Affairs, R Street Institute


“Farm bills are known for being bloated and wasteful, but this year’s bill is worse than any other in recent memory. Not only is it a missed opportunity for conservatives to enact much-needed reforms that would tighten our nutrition programs and farm safety net, but it is a major step backward in the ongoing effort to focus farm subsidies on farmers who need them most.


The conference report does nothing to address the waste and cronyism rampant in our farm support system. It actually worsens the problem by expanding eligibility for farm subsidies to a farmer’s cousins, nieces, and nephews who may not even live or work on a farm. With deficits exceeding a trillion dollars, there are many tough decisions lawmakers have to make when it comes to spending, but ending farm subsidies for non-farmers should be an easy one. The farm bill conferees couldn’t even do that.


House Republicans supported HR 2 because they were promised that the farm bill would be a vehicle for welfare reform. That promise has been broken. There is not a single significant conservative win to be found in the entire 800-page monstrosity. Without work requirements for SNAP recipients and without work requirements for farmers, there is no reason why conservatives should support this bill.


Lawmakers should reject this package, pass a one-year extension of the current farm bill and go back to the drawing board in the next Congress to craft a new bill that considers the interests of taxpayers alongside those of special interests.”


Joshua Sewell, Senior Policy Analyst, Taxpayers for Common Sense


“Crafted by a small group of people behind closed doors, the 2018 Farm Bill is a treasure trough for a small number of special interests and large agribusinesses at the expense of taxpayers.


A mere 18 hours after bill text was made public, and without an official cost estimate available, the Senate is set to vote on this bill.


The process undertaken to ram through the 2018 farm bill makes a mockery of regular order and reveals the hostility many members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have for taxpayers footing the bill for their package of parochial pandering. At a likely cost of $867 billion, Senators would have just 1 and one third minute to spend on each of the 807 pages of bill language and explanatory text. That works out to more than $802 million of spending for each minute they could consider the package.


It is clear this bill is worse than the status quo. It's a step backward on efforts to ensure farm safety net programs are focused on actual farmers. Farm Bills are an opportunity for true bipartisan cooperation in developing nutrition and farm safety nets we can afford. The bill, however, is one big missed opportunity.


And, critically, it does absolutely nothing to bring certainty and predictability to farmers and ranchers because it does not address the greatest threat to American agriculture: President Trump’s trade war.”