If you’re curious why Congress’ approval rating is at historic lows, look no further than congressional leaders’ blind-sided, unprovoked attack on agriculture last night.
Without any consultation with America’s farmers, or apparently even elected leaders from rural America, a handful of lawmakers fast-tracked a new budget proposal that would decimate crop insurance.
The proposed draconian budget reductions threaten the very existence of the private insurance delivery system and has the potential to unravel the entire farm safety net – once again leaving farmers dependent on unbudgeted, expensive, and inefficient disaster aid packages.
The move is irresponsible since it’s coming at a time when the farm economy is reeling, crop prices are plunging, and farmers and ranchers are picking up the pieces after a string of extreme weather events.
The move is punitive since crop insurance companies are already seeing far smaller returns than those contractually agreed to by federal regulators, who coincidently have been all too happy to erect new bureaucratic hurdles that drive up the cost of doing business.
And the move is perplexing since agriculture seems to be the only industry targeted time and again for these kinds of cuts. Why is it that lawmakers are so focused on an industry that accounts for less than one-quarter of one percent of federal spending?
The 2014 Farm Bill, which was debated in Congress over three years in an open process, already cut farm policy spending by an estimated 30 percent by making crop insurance a critical piece of the farm safety net. Farmers accepted the cut because they like private-sector delivered crop insurance.
The federal government promised farmers that they could count on a farm safety net for at least five years to manage the kind of collapse in prices that they are now experiencing. But, just one year after enactment that same government is changing the terms and doing so without any debate or consideration for those who produce our national food supply.
It’s a process that even Rep. Paul Ryan, who is expected to become the next Speaker of the House, couldn’t hide his contempt for as he told a group of reporters this morning:
About the process, I can say this. The process stinks. This is not the way to run the peoples’ business, and under new management we are not going to run the peoples’ business this way.
We agree. Farmers and the American people deserve better. And there’s no need to wait for new management to start improving things.
If you’re reading this article and care about agriculture, call your congressional delegation and demand this anti-farmer proposal be defeated.