The U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill, and clearly it is still business as usual. The Farm Bill continues its bad habit of subsidizing a few commodity crops like corn and soy to the tune of billions of dollars. Current subsidies go to the largest agribusinesses, with three quarters of the subsidy payments going to fewer than 4% of U.S. farmers, Last year the agricultural sector made over $98 billion in net income, showing that these large, profitable agribusinesses don’t need additional taxpayer handouts.
But instead of embracing reform, the Senate decided to continue to send tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to Big Ag. Amendments such as Senators Shaheen and Toomey’s amendment to cap crop insurance premium subsidies at $40,000, producing a saving of $5.2 billion over 10 years, was not allowed a floor vote and Senator Paul’s amendment, to limit any payment or benefit from the farm program if farmers have an average adjusted gross income over $250, 000 was voted against.
One amendment by Senators Coburn and Durbin’s to reduce the level of federal premium support for crop insurance participants with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) over $750,000 was approved. But in terms of real savings it is a drop in the bucket. It will only save $1.2 billion dollars over ten years, while $260 billion has been spent since 1995 on wasteful agricultural subsidies.
The Senate missed a golden opportunity to tackle the problem of wasteful agricultural subsidies and instead recommits to taxpayer support for the largest agribusinesses. Adding insult to injury, the subsidies continue to be heavily tilted towards crops like corn and soy, which are often processed into junk food ingredients. At a time when one in three American children is overweight or obese, taxpayers should not spend billions subsidizing additives like high fructose corn syrup.
We now look to the U.S. House of Representatives and call on them to pass a common-sense Farm Bill that is fiscally prudent and ends subsidies for large, profitable agribusinesses.