After four years of work and tireless efforts by the Agriculture Committees of both chambers, a new Farm Bill finally passed the House this week and is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate next week. If past is prologue, this immense package of policy—affecting not just the farms that nourish our nation but all aspects of our society from university towers to the city streets—will be picked apart and cast down by chicken littles and professional critics of all stripes.
But there is a great story to tell in this bill. Our farms and the families that work so hard to constantly improve them have long been a source of pride and stability for this nation. Not only have we not known widespread hunger due to lack of crops, but we have been blessed with the most diverse, safe and affordable food supply known by any people in history.
American farmers recognized the budget challenges we as a nation face and rose to the challenge.
This package will save taxpayers some $23 billion—$17 billion beyond sequestration—with the lion’s share of projected savings coming from cuts to the farm support programs that help farmers weather volatile markets and whatever Mother Nature throws at them. Taken together, title 1 farm policies and crop insurance are called the farm safety net, and all totaled they are reduced in this bill by $13 billion—a 9% cut from an already reduced baseline.
Unlike most other areas of federal spending, we are not defining cuts as mere reductions to increases. As the chart below indicates, farm spending has been going down steadily.
From 1999 to 2003, we spent $22.3 billion per year on farm policies and crop insurance to support farmers. From 2004 to 2008, we spent $15.5 billion. From 2009 through 2013, even with the epic drought of 2012, we will have spent $14.0 billion. This steady spending decline is the baseline from which the $13 billion or 9% cuts are made.
The professional critics will ballyhoo about how these aren’t real cuts or the safety net for farmers isn’t helping the right people, but the numbers don’t lie.
Much is owed to the leaders like Chairwoman Stabenow and Chairman Lucas who have weathered the attacks and misstatements by the cast of critics for hire to bring a good bill that actually produces savings for the taxpayer while promoting jobs and stability for all the people of the nation to this point. The Agricultural Act of 2014 represents a worthy endeavor, and it should be passed.