You might have already heard in the news that the Senate passed a 2012 Farm Bill and now we’re waiting patiently for the House to negotiate a bill and hopefully get a workable program before the current program’s expiration in September 2012.
But does it really mean anything to you?
The first thing to understand is that the “Farm Bill” is 1/5 programs for farmers and 4/5 food stamps and nutrition programs. It would be better called a “Food and Farm Bill,” but the rhetoric is so deeply entrenched at this point that it seems pointless to try to change it.
The second thing to understand is that cuts to farm programs and government subsidies to farmers might put a dent in Farm Bill spending, but a dent the size of grocery cart ding not something much larger like most of the population expects. When farm programs are only 20 percent of the bill, the cuts to food stamps will have to be substantial in order to really make this entire Farm Bill cost significantly less.
Democrats are ready to dig their heals in and fight to maintain spending on food stamps. And why shouldn’t they, when nearly 45 million Americans rely on food stamps for their daily bread? But Republicans are motivated to cut spending and in order to actually cut spending on this bill in a meaningful way, they will have to cut food stamps. This isn’t really a win-win for anyone.
Still, the fact remains, that most Americans see “Farm Bill” and the enormous price tag that comes with it and think farmers are making out like bandits. This isn’t the case at all. Nor will it be an easy task to minimize the Farm Bill budget.
Stay tuned for the debate to continue in Washington on this one …