by Marion Nestle
Jan 31 2014

Yes, the farm bill is politically corrupt. Veto it!

I’ve been hearing from readers challenging my disgusted comments about the politics of the farm bill.

The bill is so awful that the Washington Post says it deserves a veto:

Tipping the financial scales at $956 billion over 10 years, or just over $1 billion per page, the hideously complex bill is supposedly a compromise that reforms crop subsidy programs…what the bill takes from the ag lobby with one hand, it largely gives back with the other…the bill cuts $8.5 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the poor…attached to so much corporate welfare, it’s hard to swallow, especially when that corporate welfare isn’t rigorously means-tested.

The New York Times doesn’t go that far.  It supports the bill, but grudgingly: “The farm bill could have been worse:”

On balance, the bill is clearly worthy of support, particularly because it will prevent austerity fanatics in future Congresses from gutting food stamps for the next five years….But endorsing the bill also means acknowledging the low expectations for real progress in Washington…As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues, rejecting the farm bill means rolling the dice that the next Congress will do a better job. In today’s environment, that’s a tough bet.

Why is the farm bill politically corrupt?

  • It is indeed “hideously complex,” so much so that nobody can possibly make intelligent decisions about very much of it.
  • It is so difficult to read (because it refers to previously legislation) that all kinds of things can get into it without being noticed or discussed.
  • It is mired in “pork,” things put into it by members of agriculture committees to please particular groups of constituents or lobbyists.
  • It is not about what’s best for the American people, farmers, or the poor; it is about what’s best for getting legislators elected.
  • It represents a substantial transfer of taxpayer dollars to the wealthiest “farmers” (i.e., agribusiness) at the expense of the poor and, therefore, legislates further income inequity.

I’m with the Washington Post on this one.  If the Senate passes it and the president signs it, it’s only because they’ve given up on trying to govern the country from some rational perspective.

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  • hereatlast

    That is almost word for word the GOP opposition to the ACA. It’s long, it’s complicated, no one has read it. It’s got give backs. Yep, it does. That’s the way politics is done in America. Governing from a rational perspective went out the window with Reagan. And it is all well and good lament how awful the bill is, but there are some good things in there for organic programs, for veterans, and for 2501 groups. Is it everything everyone wanted? No. What would a veto accomplish? It would send it back to the House right when we are talking the debt ceiling again. Does anyone REALLY want SNAP to be so vulnerable during debt ceiling talks? What purpose would that serve? Take the Farm Bill for what it is, work on equitable implementation, and get out the vote so that the House and Senate are Blue next year and we can restore SNAP funding. Even better would be improving the economy so that less funding is needed because people are back on their feet.

  • CarolO

    I am so disappointed in Debbie Stabenow and the Democrats in the White House for thinking this Farm Bill was so great. It’s awful to take food away from some to give it to others…….some are Senators that are multi-millionaires. I am a Senior who worked 42 years and now trying to exist on Social Security. I am barely eating with what I get now and already darned sick of oatmeal 4 times a week! I hope Obama veto’s This awful Farm Bill. This Bill affects the 16 States that already are trying to pay high heat bills and have lost unemployment.

  • CarolO

    This Bill was first for 4 Billion in deductions and now has risen to 8 Billion. And it contained transparency so we would know what rich Senators would benefit. That was also removed. Taking food away from those already poor to hand it to rich Senators stinks.

  • primitive

    This and many other very lengthy and complex bills need to be eliminated and and re-written as many smaller bills, each dealing only with the title subject of the bill. The DOA should not administer the SNAP program and the congress should not administer bills that control any facet of medicine.
    Everyone who would like a more transparent government should write to every one for whom he can vote demanding that every bill be fully written out in plain English and be available for all to see on the web for a minimum of two weeks before any vote can be taken. Also there should be no late night sessions with secretive 3AM votes!

  • Callie

    Leave it to an unabashed ideologue to misuse the term “corrupt” to sensationalize a so-so bill that is guilty only of being large and complex. Hardly “corrupt”. Maybe the bill should have been broken up, as republicans suggested. Argue farm supports in one bill. Get that enormous SNAP budget out in the open where we can really take our scalpels to it. If the farm bill were to be vetoed we might end up with some real austerity – tens of billions annually just waiting to be clawed back from the SNAP boondoggle. That might be the first intelligent action Obama has taken as president…and he’s still fishing about for a legacy – this could be it, no?

  • hereatlast

    You are right, it stinks. That doesn’t make it worth a veto. If SNAP goes on the table during the debt ceiling it is hosed. The GOP will use it as a hostage. Is that really better?

  • Lee

    I agree that the farm bill is corrupt indeed because in the end the poor suffers when benefits are cut and forced to pay more taxes. The wealthiest will always be represented fairly because they pay in a lot to the campaigns. The government is suppose to make decisions based on what the people what and this farm bill is not for the citizens.

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  • TR

    So, Callie, you think corporate welfare for agribusiness is ok? Why do you insist on narrowmindedly focusing on SNAP and ignore the pork being rolled out for agribusiness? Why do you conveniently ignore that? Narrow minded are you? Can’t businesses be allowed to fail if they don’t run profitably? Why do you think businesses need to recieve welfare from the government but refuse help to disadvantaged and exploited people? All subsidies to agribusiness needs to end. That would reduce the cost of the Farm Bill. Why don’t you include that in your criticism of the Farm Bill? Are you a recipient of those sbusidies/welfare? Are you throwing up smoke and mirrors to keep the pork for yourself whilst denying to others?

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