Issue: H.R. 1947 Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (Farm Bill). (Sponsor: Rep. Frank D. Lucas (OK-3).)
Result: Failed in House, 195 to 234, 6 not voting. The replacement H.R. 2642 passed (see House Roll Call 353, 7-11-13). Republicans scored.
Bill Summary: This massive, complex measure sets agriculture, food, conservation, and forestry policy for the federal government for 5 years. Here is a sample of the provisions as described in a lengthy Congressional Research Summary:
- Provides for crop years 2014-2018 either: (1) price loss coverage if a covered commodity’s effective price is less than its reference price; or (2) alternative revenue loss coverage, as a permanent one-time election, if a covered commodity’s county revenue is less than the county revenue loss coverage trigger.
- Authorizes: (1) nonrecourse marketing assistance loans through crop year 2018, (2) loan deficiency payments through crop year 2018, (3) payments in lieu of loan deficiency payments for grazed acreage through crop year 2018, (4) programs for upland cotton and extra long staple cotton, (5) assistance for peanuts, and (6) recourse loans for high moisture feed grains and seed cotton through crop year 2018.
- Extends the conservation reserve program (CRP) and the farmable wetland program through FY2018.
- Extends the environmental quality incentives program through FY2018.
- Extends specified programs and authorizations of appropriations under the Food for Peace Act through FY2018.
- Extends through FY2018 : (1) the distance learning and telemedicine program, (2) value-added agricultural producer grants, and (3) the agriculture innovation center demonstration program.
- Extends the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) through FY2018.
- Extends through FY2018: (1) guarantee authority for rural electrification or telephone bonds and notes, (2) expansion of 911 access, and (3) loan guarantees for rural broadband telecommunications infrastructure.
- Establishes a veterinary services grant program. Authorizes appropriations.
Analysis: Congressional wrangling over a new farm bill provides important lessons in how conservatives are being deceived into relying on a political solution in Washington.
Congress sets agriculture, food, conservation, and forestry 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) expired on September 30, 2012, although some programs continued through the end of the year. By the end of 2012, Congress had failed to agree on a replacement bill, so as part of the “fiscal cliff” agreement in January, a partial extension of then current farm law was approved for the balance of the 2013 crop year.
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 in each of the farm bills introduced in this session of Congress.
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 up to that time. The bill called for $169 billion in spending over five years, including $85 billion for income and support payments to farmers.
Although President 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).
Reauthorization in 2013
On June 10th, the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 by a vote of 66–27 with 7 not voting. Supporters of the Senate bill included 18 Republicans. 25 Republicans and 2 Democrats opposed the measure.
On June 20th, House GOP leaders brought their version of a farm bill (H.R. 1947) to the floor, expecting passage (this roll call). Instead, as noted above, the bill was defeated by a vote of 195 to 234.
The defeated H.R. 1947 would have authorized a projected $743.9 billion in food stamps over the next 10 years (out of an estimated $972.3 billion for the entire bill). That massive figure included a proposed $20.5 billion cut to the program, causing most Democrats to oppose the bill. Opposition also came from several conservative groups, which complained that the bill left other outrageous programs in place.
Conservatives had plenty of reasons to complain. The House bill was tagged at $500 billion over 5 years, a reduction in spending of a mere $3.8 billion annually — (the Senate bill offered only a $2.4 billion reduction annually) — with no real challenge to established unconstitutional programs and even authorizing a few new ones.
Almost half the minuscule savings in the House bill would have come from a reduction in food stamp spending, prompting cries of “sharp cuts to food stamps.” Indeed, Washington politicians are able to feign a great partisan divide by arguing over trifles, while America continues to be smothered in big government.
On May 31st, 3 weeks prior to the farm bill vote, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent an open memo to GOP representatives describing the busy House agenda for June. The memo was full of arguments calculated to win public support and of praise for GOP committee chairmen.
In listing the various appropriation bills the House GOP was working to advance, Cantor pointed to the Constitution for authority but completely ignored its restraints:
“The power of the purse is one of Congress’s most basic and important Constitutional responsibilities, deriving from Clause 7, Section 9 of Article I which states, ‘No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of Appropriations made by Law.’…
“Chairman Hal Rogers and his committee members are working hard to produce twelve bills which reflect judicious spending of the public’s money. The overall spending level contained in the twelve appropriations bills is written to the sequester-level of $967 billon.”
Why written to the sequester level? Why not written to conform to the Constitution? Here is Cantor’s description of the farm bill, an appropriation bill dominated by unconstitutional programs ever since World War II:
“Chairman Frank Lucas and the Agriculture Committee members have drafted a bipartisan five-year farm bill, H.R. 1947, The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, and I expect this bill to be considered next month. This bill, together with the effects of sequestration, reflects almost $40 billion in savings reductions through eliminating and reforming wasteful government programs and consolidating more than 100 programs.” [Emphasis added.]
Comment: It is a huge mistake to accept Establishment propaganda that bipartisanship is a great virtue. A consensus embraced by socialists cannot restore America to prosperity.
Cantor continued: “Over $20 billion in savings comes from much-needed reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including eliminating benefits for lottery winners and applying asset and resources tests to all applicants.”
In other words, unconstitutional federal welfare is OK as long as the applicants really need it. If the Constitution’s limits are not respected, politicians can find justification to spend our money on almost anything.
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. Many politicians have difficulty challenging that fundamental fallacy.
However, merely advocating correct principles, while ignoring the tune to which politicians are marching, won’t get the job done. Too many groups labeled as “conservative” simply portray our problems as stemming from bad policies that can be corrected individually by reasonable men.
This deception is deadly. Instead, Americans must be told why unconstitutional government has been fastened on us in the first place, if we hope to reverse the tide.
It’s not naive humanitarianism that drives socialist rhetoric and the expansion of unconstitutional government programs. The ultimate driver is a power-seeking Conspiracy that targets our freedoms. Groups organized to oppose the socialist forces in Washington as though this Conspiracy does not exist ultimately deceive Americans, whether they intend to or just don’t care.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Noes and (bad vote) to the Ayes. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)
Note: On July 11, House leaders brought a new version of the farm bill (H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act) to a vote (see House Roll Call 353). To win conservative support, the new version separated out the food stamp program and replaced the permanent default farm support programs. Otherwise, the new version was essentially the old version, with no further cuts or reforms. Floor amendments were not allowed. The bill squeaked by, 216 to 208.
Conservative opponents warned that removing the food stamp program from the bill was just a ruse to get to a Senate conference and that the bill was “still loaded down with market-distorting giveaways to special interests with no path established to remove the government’s involvement in the agriculture industry.” Indeed, on July 18th the Senate amended the House bill by unanimous consent, in effect replacing it with its own version, and then immediately asked for a conference.