Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 6, 2014

Farmed out

Congress has sent a $956 billion farm bill larded with subsidies for agribusiness to President Obama, who issued a statement Tuesday praising it.

Maybe he should first have reread his fiscal 2014 budget proposal. “The farm sector continues to be one of the strongest sectors of the U.S. economy, with net farm income expected to increase 13.6 percent to $128.2 billion in 2013, which would be the highest inflation-adjusted amount since 1973,” it pointed out. “With the value of both crop and livestock production at all-time highs, income support payments based upon historical levels of production can no longer be justified.”

It is a depressing measure of political reality in Washington that Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill, even though it achieves less than half of the $37.8 billion in savings (over 10 years) that his budget called for. The bill expands crop insurance subsidies, which the president had targeted for reduction because of their wasteful, distorting impact on both the federal budget and farmers’ use of land, labor and capital.

The bill’s authors urge support because it eliminates egregious “direct payment” subsidies and makes a few other incremental reforms. But for every step the bill takes toward better federal agriculture policy, it takes two or three steps in the other direction. Worst of all, it creates two new programs — Agriculture Risk Coverage and a Supplemental Coverage Option — which, taken together, all but guarantee beneficiaries’ revenues never fall below 86 percent of their earnings during years of high crop prices, according to estimates by Montana agricultural economist Vincent H. Smith. This federal largess is subject to no significant means-testing.

In fact, people making up to $900,000 in adjusted gross annual income can qualify for payments. Why would a president concerned about inequality endorse such welfare for the prosperous?

Contrary to what its apologists claim, the 2014 farm bill is not a hard-won triumph for bipartisanship. Instead, it is a case study in everything that’s wrong with Congress. This is a bill of, by and for the agriculture lobby, which, through sheer power and self-interested persistence, ground down reform advocates over three years. The premise of the legislation — that this country would be at risk of shortages and soaring food prices without multiple layers of central planning in agriculture — is simply not true.

Text Only
Opinion
  • Your new password: sur**nder Have you changed your passwords since the security flaw known as Heartbleed emerged? Have you made sure they're all long, alphanumeric and randomized? Did you use a unique one for every site -- every bank account, every e- mail address, every music-s

    April 17, 2014

  • Hillary leans on Bill, Obama Recently Hillary Clinton gave what appeared at first to be a rambling and unfocused answer when asked to name the proudest achievement of her four years as Secretary of State. The short version is, she doesn't have one. But Clinton's words make a lot

    April 17, 2014

  • If GOP lost culture war, liberals did, too The "culture wars" have been a feature of American politics for almost a century, but recently a number of commentators have declared their end. Conservatives have lost, swept aside by a wave of enthusiasm for marriage equality and sexualized mass cu

    April 17, 2014

  • Cable guys too slow with Internet upgrade Remember the good-old 1990s, when you could make a pot of coffee while waiting for the screeching dial-up modem to connect to the Internet at a leisurely 9.6 kilobits per second? Two decades later, the average American household's connection is 1,000

    April 16, 2014

  • A May Day fable SPRINGFIELD -- Growing up during the Cold War, May Day always was a bit ominous. On the evening news, we'd watch tanks, missiles and soldiers march by the reviewing stands in Moscow, Beijing and Havana where stone-faced Communist leaders would look

    April 16, 2014

  • Display it proudly Editor: Drive past the demolition site of the old Good Samaritan Hospital on North 12th Street in Mt. Vernon and you will see the Stars and Stripes proudly flying from the flag pole. The hospital has been reduced to a pile of debris, but Old Glory st

    April 16, 2014

  • Got raw milk ... and salmonella? A refresher course in the work of Louis Pasteur should be mandatory for advocates of so-called raw milk. For anyone who missed fourth-grade science, Pasteur discovered that heating milk for a very brief time killed E. coli, salmonella, listeria, camp

    April 16, 2014

  • Heartburn Tens of millions of Americans have been affected by the theft of their personal information in the digital age. In a recent major data breach at Target stores, numbers and names were taken from about 40 million customers, and many millions more suffe

    April 15, 2014

  • Hitting home I received an article today with a suggestion to use it in a column. This one really hit home to me because it was about the outrageous price increases in diabetic testing devices and supplies. I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes several years ago.

    April 15, 2014

  • The cost of care This was a breakthrough week for health-care transparency. For the first time, the Obama administration released doctor-specific information about Medicare payments, starting with 2012 data on $64 billion worth of billings. Journalists immediately se

    April 15, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks