font size:   

 

Senate Vote: 145     Vote Date: Jun 10th, 2013

Issue:  S. 954 Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (Farm bill), as amended. An original bill to reauthorize agricultural programs through 2018. (Sponsor: Debbie Stabenow, D-MI.)

Result:  Passed 66 to 27, 7 not voting. GOP and Democrats scored.

Bill Summary: This massive, complex measure would set 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:

  • Makes adverse market payments available for the 2014-2018 crop years to producers on farms where the actual price for a covered commodity is less than the reference price for such commodity.
  • Establishes the agriculture risk coverage program for crop years 2014-2018 to make payments to producers for each planted crop when actual farm or county-wide crop revenue is below the agriculture risk coverage guarantee.
  • Authorizes: (1) nonrecourse marketing assistance loans, (2) loan deficiency payments, (3) payments in lieu of loan deficiency payments for grazed acreage, (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.
  • Establishes a dairy production margin protection program under which participating dairy operations are paid: (1) basic production margin protection program payments when production margins are less than threshold levels, and (2) supplemental production margin protection program payments if purchased by a participating dairy operation.
  • Extends the environmental quality incentives program through FY2018.
  • Extends specified programs and authorizations of appropriations under the Food for Peace Act through FY2018. Prohibits assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).
  • Amends the Rural Electrification Act of 1926 to reauthorize through FY2018 guarantees for bonds and notes issued for electrification or telephone purposes as well as expansion of 911 access.
  • Amends the Rural Electrification Act of 1926 to reauthorize through FY2018 guarantees for bonds and notes issued for electrification or telephone purposes as well as expansion of 911 access.

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.

Background

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.

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 took the lead in passing its version of a Farm Bill (this Senate vote).

On June 20th, House GOP leaders brought their version of a farm bill (H.R. 1947) to the floor, expecting passage. It was defeated by conservative who wanted more cuts and Democrats who objected to the bill’s cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more commonly known as “food stamps.”

The defeated House bill, H.R. 1947, 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. Neither bill provided any real challenge to established unconstitutional programs and each proposed new ones.

On July 11, House leaders brought a new version, H.R. 2642, to a vote. The new version was very similar to H.R. 1947, but to win conservative support, the new version separated out the food stamp (SNAP) program. Many realized that this was just a ruse to get to conference. However, H.R. 2642 squeaked by 216 to 208.

The Senate’s response to H.R. 2642 was to replace it with its own version and send it back to the House. With more back and forth, the two versions were never reconciled.

Ignoring the real game plan

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