But both versions would spend much of the savings on new protections for farms that could be “less transparent . . . and less predictable in terms of projecting budget outlays” than the old system, reports agricultural economist Roman Keeney of Purdue University.
This brings us to the one decent argument for the farm bill, which, in fairness to Ornstein, is the one he emphasized: About 80 percent of it is funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the poor. The legislative twinning of farm subsidies and food aid reflects a decades-old deal across Congress’ partisan and rural-urban divides.
House Republicans wrongly held up the farm bill this year by trying to sharply cut SNAP benefits while preserving farm subsidies.
Sooner or later, though, Congress will have to find a balanced alternative to the old log-rolling link between help for the poor and corporate welfare for agribusiness.
A functional political system would provide the former — without the latter.