Farm Bill Follies

Texas Drought Reveals Wreckage From Space Shuttle Columbia

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman was somehow roused to pen a letter to the Washington Post objecting to an anti-farm bill editorial:
Robert J. Samuelson [“Plow under the farm subsidies” op-ed, Jan. 7] missed the mark in not understanding that farm bills are written not for the good times but for when farmers need help the most. When Mother Nature strikes, such as with last year’s extreme drought, both farmers and consumers feel it. While crop insurance and farm programs help mitigate the economic impact on farmers, an indirect benefit to consumers is a stable food supply. Other farm-bill provisions provide nutrition assistance to those in need.
Actually, Mr. Samuelson's point was that total farm income is at an all time high ($133 billion in 2012 and $135 Billion in 2011 - up from $72 billion in 2005), so if there was ever a time to eliminate farm subsidies, it is now. The U.S. economy is on life support and government spending is far more than revenues taken in so the country can no longer afford these socialistic programs. "Socialistic" is my word - the WaPo would never use the term.

Now let me say that the Farm Bureau is not all bad.  For example they oppose the the pseudo-science of global warming and do not believe that "cap 'n trade" is in the farmers' best interests. But Bob Stallman,of all people, knows about the waste and abuse of public funds that goes on in Washington all the time.

Back in 2008, the Washington Post produced an exposé that concluded:
"In 2005 alone, when pretax farm profits were at a near-record $72 billion, the federal government handed out more than $25 billion in aid, almost 50 percent more than the amount it pays to families receiving welfare."
A key finding of that report was that "No Drought Required For Drought Aid.
A 2002 program aimed at helping those facing a serious drought gave $635 million to ranchers and dairy farmers who had moderate or no drought. Some ranchers got money because they lived in counties declared disaster areas after debris fell to earth from the space shuttle Columbia.
Yep, it is just this easy:
At first, livestock owners were required to be in a county officially suffering a drought to collect the money. But ranchers who weren't eligible complained to their representatives in Washington, and in 2003 Congress dropped that requirement. Ranchers could then get payments for any type of federally declared "disaster." In some cases, USDA administrators prodded employees in the agency's county offices to find qualifying disasters, even if they were two years old or had nothing to do with ranching or farming.
In one county in northern Texas, ranchers collected nearly $1 million for an ice storm that took place a year and a half before the livestock program was even created. In Washington state, ranchers in one county received $1.6 million for an earthquake that caused them no damage. In Wisconsin, a winter snowstorm triggered millions of dollars more. For hundreds of ranchers from East Texas to the Louisiana border, the shuttle explosion opened the door to about $5 million, records show.
John A. Johnson, deputy administrator for farm programs for the USDA, said that initially the program provided meaningful assistance to ranchers in areas suffering from drought. But after Congress loosened the rules, he acknowledged, "what was meant as disaster assistance ended up being given to people who didn't have a need or a loss."
Perhaps Mr. Stallman would like to correct his example about drought and his general theme that this farm aid is all about the American consumer.

  • Gadfly:
    It's a damn shame the farmers got rooked into the whole SUBSIDY gravy-train gig...

    THAT opened the door for more "pork-farming" than all the OTHER crops put together...!
    And the stats show as much.

    Good post and links!

    Stay safe