Senate Panel Makes Reforms to Farm Bill

July 22, 2007

By now, the opponents of farm policy sound like broken records. The Senate Agriculture Committee had not even completed its markup of the farm bill, and these naysayers were already attacking the bill and Committee members for not making reforms.

It seems like no matter how many concessions the agricultural community makes, they will never be enough for these foreign-funded advocacy groups and other fringe groups who really want to see production agriculture come to an end in America.

The Senate Agriculture Committee followed the House of Representatives’ lead and proposed significant reforms to this nation’s farm policies—in fact, they followed many of the recommendations from the special interests now criticizing the bill.

First and foremost, there is funding for fruits and vegetable farmers in the House and Senate bill—a component once touted as vital by reformers. In fact, a coalition of more than 120 specialty crop organizations supports the bill.

Months back, reform proponents also cherry-picked a handful of examples of famous subsidy recipients and railed against farm program inequality. The rich shouldn’t be on the government’s dole, they said.

The proposed farm bills closed those loopholes to make it impossible for rich non-farmers to get payments.

The bills went even further and include means testing for farmers to reduce the amount of assistance available to the larger producers and family farms.

Still not enough? The House and Senate farm bills tighten the limits on federal funds that growers can receive. The new bills also create a fully transparent system of tracking payments by directly attributing payments to individuals and eliminating the “three-entity rule” which could theoretically be used by a few to participate in multiple entities receiving payments.

The bottom line? Farmers will receive less under new farm laws than under the current system. No other group with an interest in the farm bill was asked to take a cut in benefits. In fact, most other groups with an interest in the farm bill saw funding increases.

Farm groups could have complained about inequality. They could have cried foul that for the second time in recent history funding for family farmers was slashed in the farm bill. Even though farm spending was reduced while nutrition, rural development and conservation programs were significantly expanded, nearly all major farm groups in the country rallied behind the House bill and its reforms, and they are rallying behind the version passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

There’s an old saying “you can’t make everyone happy.” Well, with the exception of a few radicals who don’t seem to have a clear idea of what they want, it appears that Congress is coming pretty darn close.