Freedom First Society

Issue:  H.R. 2, Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Question: On passage.

Result:  Passed in House, 213 ayes to 211 noes, 4 not voting.  (Passed Senate, 86 to 11, with an amendment, Senate Vote 143, 6-28-18.) GOP only scored.

Freedom First Society:  This 2018 “Farm Bill” authorizes Department of Agriculture programs that spend more that $140 billion tax dollars annually without a shred of authorization anywhere in the Constitution.  The authorization includes federal welfare in the form of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly “food stamps,” now provided to more than 40 million Americans, as well as crop support welfare for somefarmers.

As expected, the GOP leadership made no effort to roll back and curtail this federal intervention and distortion of a market economy.  A GOP provision to add a work requirement for some SNAP recipients in the House version caused the House Democrats to oppose this measure, so we do not score them on this one (right vote, wrong reason).

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.)

Bill Summary:   Every five years, Congress tasks itself with renewing something informally called the “Farm Bill,” which defines policies and authorizes programs for the Department of Agriculture.  While originally dealing with agricultural price supports and crop production, the mission of the Department of Agriculture has expanded greatly.

From the Congressional Research Service Summary:  “This bill (commonly known as the farm bill) reauthorizes through FY2023 and modifies Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs that address: commodity support, conservation, trade and international food aid, nutrition assistance, farm credit, rural development, research and extension activities, forestry, horticulture, and crop insurance.”

According to Wikipedia: “Approximately 80% of the USDA’s $141 billion budget goes to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) program. The largest component of the FNS budget is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp program), which is the cornerstone of USDA’s nutrition assistance.”

Analysis:  This “Farm Bill” is essentially the same bill that failed to pass the House in May (House Roll Call 205).  However, at that time some Republicans were withholding their yes vote on the Farm Bill in order to get a vote on the Goodlatte immigration bill: “The main reason conservatives are reviving their push for a vote on the Goodlatte bill now is to kill the discharge petition on the queen of the hill rule.” —  “Freedom Caucus Seeks to Leverage Farm Bill Support for Immigration Vote,” Roll Call, 5-15-18.

Immediately after the vote on the Goodlatte bill (House Roll Call 282, 6-21-18), the “Farm Bill” was brought up again and almost ten GOP no votes switched to the yes column, narrowly putting the farm bill over the hump.

Following passage of this bill, the Senate voted on H.R. 2 (Senate Vote 143, June 28, 2018), by substituting its own version.  This means that H.R. 2 will likely go to a House-Senate Committee to iron out differences.

Farm Bill History

The original “Farm Bill” known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) was a creature of the FDR administration.  David Eugene Conrad, author of The Forgotten Farmers stated: “The real authors of the farm bill, despite the pretext of the farm leaders’ conference, were [FDR’s Secretary of Agriculture Henry] Wallace, [Columbia University professor] Rexford Tugwell, and Mordecai Ezekiel…. Also consulted were George Peek [who became the program’s first administrator], Henry Morgenthau [soon FDR’s Secretary of the Treasury], General Hugh Johnson and [Wall Street financier] Bernard Baruch.”

After quitting his post in frustration, George Peek complained about the Insider architects of these farm policies: “they admired everything Russian…. To them Russia was the promised land and the sooner the United States became like Russia, the better for everyone.”

Several months prior to signing “reluctantly” the 1985 Farm Bill (officially, the “Food Security Act of 1985), President Reagan argued: “If spending more money on agriculture would solve the problem, we would have solved it by now.”

In the November, 1989 newsletter published by the free market Ludwig von Mises Institute, James Bovard argued:

“The key to understanding American agricultural policy is to realize that the vast majority of the 400 farm products produced in America receive no federal handouts. There is no fundamental difference between subsidized and unsubsidized crops — only a difference in campaign contributions to congressmen by different farm lobbies.”

Thomas Jefferson, at one time a farmer himself and a strong advocate of limited government, wisely stated:

“Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.”

There is no place for federal welfare in a strong America.  Other programs in the Farm Bill not discussed here are equally destructive.  America desperately needs Congress to roll back and abolish the subversive, unconstitutional programs launched under prior administrations, such as FDR’s New Deal, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, and Jimmy Carter’s Department of Energy (that primarily prevents American from enjoying plentiful low cost energy) to name a few.

But the drive for such a roll back will not come from within Congress itself.  It must come from an informed electorate.  Please share these scorecard posts widely.

Also see our analysis of the 2013 Farm Bill signed by President Obama (H.R. 2642, House Roll Call 31, 1-29-14).

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