In a move that should surprise precisely no-one, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation's largest lobby group for agriculture, this week endorsed an "everything for everyone, all the time" approach to farm policy. Meeting at the AFBF's annual conference, the delegates endorsed an approach similar to the House Agriculture Committee-passed bill. The House bill supporters made a big show of cutting direct payments to farmers, a program that runs at an annual cost of $5 billion, and goes to those who own farmland or former farmland, regardless of whether they still farm. Direct payments have to go, and the farmers know it. The "savings," however, went to expanding crop insurance; a program that costs U.S. taxpayers$16 billion last year. The House bill also included a new "margin protection" plan for dairy farmers, which would essentially set domestic quotas for milk production and tax any producer who made above quota (an idea that John Boehner rightly said was "even worse" than the current, "Soviet-style" policy).
The bill never made it to the House floor, and in the end the current 2008 farm bill was extended until Septmber 2013 as part of the fiscal cliff deal. The farmers and their congressional supporters were disappointed, to say the least, but they've come back swinging.
Via FarmPolicy.com, an article in DTN contains the wish-list, and it's analogous to the sort of thing I'd present to my parents at Christmastime before I knew better:
"Delegates for the country’s largest general farm organization passed resolutions Tuesday seeking immigration reform while also crafting broad policy language asking for Congress to give farmers a menu of commodity programs.
The group also reaffirmed its support for renewable fuels.”
Farm Bureau members don’t want caps or limits applied for crop insurance premium subsidies to producers... Farm Bureau delegates argued that such a cap would be detrimental to producers.
The group also opposes means testing and payment limitations for crop insurance.
“Farm Bureau supports the development of a revenue insurance program for peanuts and rice. The group also would like to see a risk-management program for forage producers.”
Earlier in the piece we learn that delegates "called on Congress to...tighten the country's fiscal policies" which is, you know, hilarious given the context. I understand the concept of groupthink, but did anyone in the room feel squeamish about the audacity of calling for fiscal consolidation while asking for handouts?
Farm subsidies are wasteful, anachronistic, expensive, regressive blights on the U.S. economy. It's well past time to eliminate them.