Dec 14 2018
Utah farmers and ranchers need a good farm bill. They need reforms to existing crop insurance and subsidy programs that unfairly favor large corporate farms over small family farms. They need reforms to the federal government’s grazing permit process. And they need clarity from the Environmental Protection Agency on which wetlands and waters are or are not subject to costly Clean Water Act regulations.
Unfortunately, not only did the farm bill passed by the House and Senate this week do none of those things, but it also made existing farm policy worse by making it easier for the largest farms, and even non-farmers, to get taxpayer money.
For example, the bill removed a provision from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that would have forbidden non-farmers from getting farm subsidies. Now distant relatives and their spouses, who don’t farm, can each collect up to $125,000 a year in government subsidies paid by taxpayers.
In 2014 Congress did end some direct payment programs to farmers, but it also created two new subsidy programs: the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. At the time farmers could choose which of the two programs to participate in.
Under ARC, farmers get a check from the government if their revenue per acre falls below a benchmark level set by the Department of Agriculture. If prices for a commodity, like corn, are low farmers in this program get a check based on their acreage devoted to that crop.
Under PLC, farmers get a check from the government when the price of a specific crop falls below a benchmark level set by the Department of Agriculture. If the price of say corn falls below the benchmark price, farmers get a check from the government based on each unit of crop sold.
At the time these programs were created farm lobbyists promised they would reduce government subsidies to farmers. The opposite has happened. The projected cost of the two programs was supposed to be $18 billion over five years. Instead it has cost taxpayers $31 billion.
Our nations farm policies are not helping small farmers. More than 60% of farm subsidies go to the largest 10% of farms. With all these government subsidies going to the largest farms, how can the smaller farms compete?
Not only did Congress not reform these bloated programs, the new farm bill now allows farmers switch between the two programs whenever they want!
Americas farmers deserve better than the crony-capitalist farm bill Congress passed this week.