Big Agribusiness and Food Stamp Recipients Both Hope Congress Fails To Pass A New Farm Bill


Photo: BLS

The beginning of fiscal cliff negotiations has overshadowed the need for Congress to resolve another issue in a state of impasse: the passage of a new five-year farm bill.Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) told reporters yesterday that a farm bill “is definitely on the agenda to deal with by the end of the year” and that the potential savings included in the bill would be a boon to fiscal cliff negotiations.

If no agreement can be reached, the continuing resolution agreed upon in September, which increases 2012 levels of funding by 0.6 per cent for the next six months, will remain in effect.

The food stamp program (SNAP) is the largest component of the farm bill, composing about 80 per cent of its costs. Any new farm bill will reduce the amount of money allocated to the program. The Republican House passed a farm bill this summer that saves $35 billion over 10 years and cuts funding to SNAP by $1.6 billion per year. The companion bill in the Senate saves $23 billion over the same timeframe, but cuts significantly less from the food stamp program.

For people who rely on food stamps, the best-case scenario is a fiscal cliff solution that doesn’t involve a new farm bill.

Furthermore, the failure to pass a farm bill is also the ideal outcome for Big Agribusiness.

A new farm bill would cut agricultural subsidies by $20 to $30 billion. The Huffington Post reports that between 1995 and 2010, 10 per cent of farmers collected 74 per cent of the subsidies. Cuts to subsidies would disproportionally hurt Big Agribusiness and have little effect on family farmers.

In any event, those who need food and those who produce it wait together with baited breath in hopes that Congress won’t do what it hasn’t done since May 2008 and actually pass a comprehensive farm bill.

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