I cannot see all the way to South Georgia where I covered farm legislation spelled “POLITICS”.
But, I can understand the Senate passing the new farm bill this week. Even Sen, Harry Reid cannot stand in the way of the coalition that writes and funds an ever more costly farm bill. When one gets the farm state senators, mostly Republicans, together with the big city liberal Democrats, both sides learned to compromise years ago.
What happens is a real pictures of what is wrong in Washington.
Programs for surplus farm products began after WW II. American farmers were urged to expand production to maximum levels to feed the world during the war years and shortly thereafter,. Many in Europe and Asia would have starved without food from American farms. The need was so critical to the war effort that a deferment from military duty was given to farm workers.
The USDA began buying over production as the country turned to peace time economics. Schools were given surplus peanut butter, cheese, powdered milk and many other items. Poor people were added to the list.
Then grocers complained that it took business away. Low income people were given scrip to spend at the local market. They were called “food stamps“. Now they get a debit card and a family on “food stamps” could have more money for groceries than many middle class families.
Support to help farmers adjust to peacetime markets changed into a variety of price support programs for “basic crops.” Those are corn, rice, cotton, soybeans, peanuts and wheat.
Fruits and vegetables growers have no price supports. Livestock have had few programs. Milk is a special category that would take a book to explain.
Today, less than two percent of the population works in agriculture, including farm operators and those who work on the farm and those who process products.
The price for continued farm programs is an ever increasing expansion of the food stamp program. The food and nutrition programs have been under the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) forever. It made good sense when agriculture, including forestry and grazing federal lands, was a major portion of the economy and nearly every one lived in rural areas.
That included homesteads, land grant colleges and the popular extension service that brought new technology to farms, aided farm women and led 4-H Clubs.
The tie up between farmers and food stamps for people in the urban areas and a federal budget gone wild is obvious. One politician gets votes in rural areas and the other gets votes in heavily populated cities.
Both sides can spin the costs as good for their voters and spin it again as bad for the opposition.
Taxpayers know little about either program and most complain about both.
In 2007 with President Bush in office and Democrats in control of Congress, expanding budgets had to wait for the 2008 election to break the stalemate.
Food stamp had a budget of $30 billion. Since 2008, the program has grown to $78 billion. Congress called that a 135 percent increase.
The Senate bill just passed calls for $80 billion and, by their math, a savings in the budget of $4 billion a year for the next ten years.
Does the math confuse you?
The “savings” come from cuts in what was proposed, not what was spent in the previous budget. So the proposed budget was $84 billion compared to the current year expenditure of $78 billion. Make it just $80 billion and “savings” of $4 billion are advertised.
That ignores the huge increase the Congress and President Obama put in place to move the program from $30 billion to $78 billion since 2008. More people were made eligible and the level of benefits raised.
This just on small example of how Washington works.
That is why the Tea Party movement began across party lines. And why a third of all voters are now registered as independent.
The sad part is agriculture has been badly damaged and the people on food stamps are more and more dependent on the whims of politics,
As a farm kid and long time advocate for agriculture and individual freedom, the results of the alliance between large farms, poor people and politicians shows how freedom is lost, economies broken and government policies fail.
The USDA programs have always operated on the goal to save the family farm. Now, dairies in Calif., with 1,000 or more cows to milk daily are advertising as “family farms.”
By Marvin Robertson
Copyright 2011. Kingman Republican Men's Club. All Rights Reserved.