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Senate Vote: 259     Vote Date: Dec 11th, 2018

Issue:  H.R. 2, Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the “Farm Bill”):  A bill to provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023, and for other purposes.  Question: On the Conference Report.

Result:  Agreed to in Senate, 87 to 13.  Agreed to in House the next day (Roll Call 434, 12-12-18).  Became Public Law 115-334 (signed by the President, 12-20-18).  GOP and Democrats 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.

As expected, the GOP leadership made no effort to roll back and curtail this federal intervention and distortion of a market economy. Of some encouragement, 13 senators (all GOP) voted against the final version of H.R. 2.

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. The authorization now includes federal welfare in the form of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly “food stamps,” provided to more than 40 million Americans, as well as selected crop support welfare for some farmers.

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 (12-18): “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:   See also our analysis of H.R. 2 as originally passed by the House (House Roll Call 284, 6-21-18) and the Senate replacement (Senate Vote 143, 6-28-18).  This subsequent House-Senate conference version was passed with bipartisan (i.e., Democrat) support.  No Democratic Senators voted against the measure.  In the House, only three Democrats opposed the measure, while a whopping 44 Republicans, ignored by their GOP House leadership, voted no.

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 Farmersstated: “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.”

Excerpts from Congressional Record (12-11-18) [Emphasis added]:

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Ranking (Democrat) Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee: “The final farm bill reflects a hard-fought bipartisan agreement on a 5-year bill to strengthen the diversity of American agricultureand the 16 million jobs it supports….

Now more than ever, we need to be broadening the diversity of American agriculture, and that is exactly what the farm bill does. Our  farm bill continues to support the wide variety of farms all across America — big farms, small farms, ranchers, urban, rural. We provide new permanent support to keep this progress going, which I think is really  important.   We invest in the bright future of agriculture by helping new and  beginning farmers, including young people and our returning veterans,  who are playing a greater role in agriculture in Michigan, as well as  across the country.   New investments in international trade promotionwill help farmers  sell their products abroad….

We said no to harmful changes that would take away food from families. Instead, we will increase program integrity and job training to be able to make sure that things are working as they should and that  every dollar is used as it should be. Instead, we will connect participants with healthy food through strong investments in farmers markets and nutrition incentives.”

Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee: “Mr. President, I thank my colleague for her remarks and associate myself with those remarks. I rise today as the Senate considers the conference report on an issue that is critically important to our Nation — the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the farm bill….

“We have worked to maintain as many priorities for as many Members as possible….

“The bill focuses on program integrity — program integrity, and  commonsense investments to strengthen our nutrition programs to ensure  the long-term success of those in need of assistance. With trade and market uncertainty, to say the least, it provides certainty for our  trade promotion and research programs.  Feeding an increasing global population is not simply an agriculture challenge; it is a national security challenge. This means we need to grow more, raise more with fewer resources. That will take investments in research, new technology, lines of credit, and proper risk  management. It takes the government providing tools and then getting out of the producer’s way.”

Freedom First Society:  Today, collectivist arguments dominate the so-called debates in Congress.  Unfortunately, much of the public accepts those arguments since it is no longer schooled in the principles that made our country great and the wisdom of our Founding Fathers in crafting a limited federal government.   A major objective of Freedom First Society is to provide organizational leadership to recreate public understanding of both the burden of a massive federal government and the danger to our freedom of increasing dependence on a developing “national” government for the necessities of life.