Diane Katz and Daren Bakst – The Foundry –
The House of Representatives is preparing to vote on a $1 trillion package of agriculture subsidies and welfare benefits that exemplifies warped federal policy. Within its 575 pages, the proposed Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act includes massive spending on food stamps, a bumper crop of insurance subsidies, and lots of conservation largesse.
But there are also a multitude of lesser-known programs that will inflate commodity prices, escalate risks, and expand the size and scope of government. Below are 20 such programs that represent the noxious nature of the so-called farm bill.
- Income limitation for commodity and conservation programs. Allows the wealthy(annual adjusted gross income up to $950,000) to collect agriculture subsidies. So much for “family farmers.”
- Demonstration projects on Acceptance of Benefits of Mobile Transactions.Enables needy food stamp recipients to use their iPhones to make grocery purchases.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) pilot program for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Expands food stamp benefits among the 58,000 inhabitants of 15 islands in the western Pacific Ocean.
- Rural Business Investment Program. Provides $20 million annually to create government-subsidized businesses in places evidently inhospitable to private business investment.
- Policy research centers. Authorizes $5 million annually for grants to politically favored think tanks to do the same type of work as the Congressional Research Service and the Office of Management and Budget.
- Special import quota for upland cotton. Imposes a trade restriction to ensure that American consumers pay more for the fabric of our lives.
- Natural Stone Research and Promotion Board. Creates a quasi-government entity to spend the revenue generated by a new tax on rocks.
- Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program. Provides $40 million annually to redecorate farmers’ market stalls and roadside stands in a manner befitting their yuppie customers.
- SNAP Nutrition Education Program. Budgets a whopping $375 million for 2015 to teach food stamp recipients that candy, soda, and chips do not constitute a well-rounded diet.
- Weather radio transmitters. Authorizes $1 million annually for radio equipment that falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Commerce (National Weather Service), not the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Agriculture research and development (also known as the “No Commodity Left Behind” provision). Designates research priorities to be specialty crops, sorghum, peanuts, and sugarcane. But what about heirloom tomatoes and organic pineapple?
- National Sheep Industry Improvement Center. Subsidizes modern shepherds and herders who evidently need government assistance to market their sheep and goats.
- National Clean Plant Network. A lot of green—$137.5 million—to promote the use of healthy plants (as opposed to farmers using diseased and pest-ridden ones).
- Honey Report. Requires the Department of Agriculture to consider a federal standard that would inevitably make honey more expensive.
- Olive oil import control. Imposes import controls on olive oil (to drive up prices).
- Rural Energy for America Program. Provides subsidies to farmers and rural businesses for “renewable” energy systems so they, too, can have costly and inefficient energy.
- Community Wood Energy Program. Grants to state and local governments to return their communities to the good ol’ days of burning trees for heat.
- Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program. Provides grants to communities and Indian tribes to establish local forests (since there would be none without the federal government).
- Christmas tree tax. Allows the government to collect a new tax on Christmas trees for promotion (because otherwise we might forget to buy one for December 25).
- Price-loss coverage for peanuts. Guarantees the incomes of peanut farmers, because they have a very strong lobby in Washington, D.C.