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Senate Vote: 164     Vote Date: Jun 21st, 2012

Issue:  S. 3240, Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 as Amended; An original bill to reauthorize agricultural programs through 2017, and for other purposes. Question:  On passage (3/5 required).

Result:  Passed in Senate, 64 to 35, 1 not voting. GOP and Democrats scored. 

Bill Summary:  This omnibus $969 billion measure sets federal agriculture, rural development, and food stamp policy for five years. Trims projected crop subsidy and food aid spending 2.4 percent over five years.

Analysis:  Congress sets agriculture and food policy for the federal government every five years or so with an omnibus measure commonly called the farm bill. Since the seventies, these bills have included mandatory spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.

The 2008 farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008) was due to expire on September 30, 2012, although some programs would continue through the end of the year.

The Senate attempt at enacting a new farm bill recognized the deficit-reduction pressure in Congress and included some reductions in conservation spending and rural development.

The full Senate deliberations lasted a week. Reflecting the partisan nature of agriculture policy, there were roll call votes on 42 amendments and voice votes on dozens more. Washington politicians are able to feign a great partisan divide by arguing over trifles, while America continues to be smothered in big government.

The end product is what counts. The farm bill passed by the Senate failed to initiate any serious effort to phase out the long established, but unconstitutional, federal overreach in regulating and subsidizing farm production or the unconstitutional aid for rural development and food stamps.

Socialist proponents of U.S. farm policy argue that the federal government must provide financial assistance to farmers and rural America for these groups to prosper. And without any principled pressure from back home, many politicians have difficulty challenging that fundamental fallacy.

Note: By the end of 2012, Congress had failed to agree on a replacement bill, so as part of the “fiscal cliff” agreement, current farm law was extended for the rest of fiscal (and in come cases calendar) 2013.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Ever since the Great Depression, farm bills have been full of unconstitutional federal welfare and counterproductive intervention in the economy. One subdivision, the “Food for Peace Act,” has even been used to provide substantial aid to America’s enemies. In 1973, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner reported:

“Congressional conferees Thursday tentatively agreed to authorize low-interest, long-term credit sales of food to Russia, China, Cuba and other Communist countries….

“The conferees accepted a Senate provision to lift, except for North Vietnam, the ban on Food For Peace sales to Communist countries. Repayment under such deals can extend 20 years with interest rates as low as 2 percent.” —”Russia, China, Cuba To Get Food Credits” (7-27-1973)

Washington correspondent Paul Scott revealed more of the travesty:

“This windfall provides for Russia’s obtaining U.S. food through PL-480, the original food for peace program, for virtually nothing. Russia would pay for the grain in its own currency which would have to be used on projects within the Soviet Union.

“Members of Congress and the nation’s farm leaders are being privately told that if the Nixon Administration has its way there will be no reversal of this policy of furnishing cut-rate and free food to Moscow and Peking.”

         The “Food for Peace” program continues to this day.

The U.S. farm program has enjoyed the support of Democratic and Republican administrations alike — even those the Establishment would have us believe are conservative.   In December 1985, President Reagan signed the costliest farm bill in our nation’s history. The bill called for $169 billion in spending over five years, including $85 billion for income and support payments to farmers.

Although Mr. Reagan insisted that he wanted to get farming free of the “heavy hand of government,” he nevertheless “reluctantly” signed the measure, because it “provides new hope for America’s hard-working farmers and our rural communities.”

Modern farm bills have been designed as temporary replacements to permanent law, so that if Congress fails to pass a new farm bill when the old one expires then farm policy reverts to earlier permanent law. The suspended permanent law, enacted primarily in 1938 and 1949, as subsequently amended, is quite different from today and would be particularly disruptive. This system forces Congress to pass new legislation (or extend prior legislation).