Issue: H.R. 2, Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (“Farm Bill”). Question: On Agreeing to the Conference Report.
Result: Agreed to in House, 369 to 47, 16 not voting. The Senate agreed the previous day (Senate Vote 259, 12-11-18). 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. Only three House Democrats opposed the measure, but a whopping 44 House 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 Farmers stated: “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 (12-12-18) [Emphasis added]:
Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture: “The U.S. farm policy is no longer the old command and control policies of the New Deal, but, rather, a market-oriented, risk management approach that helps America’s farmers and ranchers survive natural disasters and the predatory trade practices of foreign countries like China. Our Nation’s farmers and ranchers are the very best in the world, but they cannot compete alone against a sea of high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs, and nontariff trade barriers, nor can they survive alone in the face of record droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters. That is why we have a farm bill.”
Freedom First Society: No, the reason we still have a farm bill is because a misinformed public does not force their representatives to roll back the unconstitutional interventions of the past. By contrast these interventions are supported and desired by the big-government promoting Establishment.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), Ranking (Democrat) Member of the House Agriculture Committee: “The conference report we are considering today would reauthorize farm bill programs for 5 years….
“The bill continues a variety of commodity, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, energy, and specialty crop programs.
“It also provides permanent mandatory funding for several of the programs that first got mandatory funding in the 2008 farm bill when I was last chairman. These include the Local Food and Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, the BFRDP, Organic Research, and the Section 2501 Outreach Program.”
Freedom First Society: How could America function without the help of a myriad of constantly expanding programs, such as the above, dreamed up by Representatives who use them to get reelected? Answer: America is being drained by this overhead burden. See also what follows.
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma): “But what is a farm bill all about? Set the nuances of various policies aside, it is to make sure that we have the safety net to enable us, in this country, to raise the food and fiber we need at an affordable, safe, and cost-effective rate to meet our needs and the world’s needs.
“And what is the other part of the farm bill? It is making sure our fellow citizens who have difficulty in overcoming their challenges have access to enough of those calories. Plain and simple, that is what farm bills have been about since 1933, making sure we all eat cheap, well, and safe.
Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia): “Mr. Speaker, this is a great farm bill. There is so much in it, so many great things. But in this farm bill is perhaps the absolute best example of bipartisanship at its best, to have Democrats and Republicans working together to give $80 million to African American, 1890s land grant colleges and universities.
“Mr. Speaker, God had His hand in this, to pull Democrats and Republicans together, to give $80 million to badly needed African American land grant colleges and universities. Only God could pull this together, and we thank God for this blessing and for touching the hearts and the souls and the spirits of all of my colleagues who will vote for this historic bill.”
Rep. Austin Scott (R-Georgia): “I am very glad that two amendments that I offered were included in the final agreement, which will bring modernization and accountability to broadband services and spur broadband infrastructure investment in rural America. Bridging the digital divide is something I have been fighting for, for years now, and I look forward to seeing the growth in network service and infrastructure development through the provisions of this bill.
“In this conference report, we also found some common ground to make improvements to SNAP. I strongly urge my colleagues to support this conference report.”
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio): “This agreement protects SNAP by rejecting proposals in the House farm bill that would have severely weakened the program and taken food assistance away from nearly 2 million people. This agreement increases access to healthy foods in underserved communities and takes steps to tackle food waste, which we know is a major problem….
“This agreement provides beginning and minority farmers and ranchers additional tools and resources needed to own and operate successful businesses.”
Rep. James Comer (R-Kentucky): “I am particularly glad to see industrial hemp [marijuana] de-scheduled from the controlled substances list, a key provision I worked with Leader McConnell on to ensure unnecessary government restrictions are lifted from this valuable agricultural commodity.”
Rep. Jim Costa (D-California): “Mr. Speaker, as a member of the farm conference committee, I am proud to support this bipartisan farm bill….
“The vital SNAP benefits are maintained, and voluntary employment and training programs that I fought for are strengthened. The 10 pilot projects in the 10 States, I find, will provide better ways for us to get people on their feet who are in need.”
Freedom First Society: Clearly collectivist arguments dominate the so-called debates in Congress. Unfortunately, collectivism sells with too much of a public that 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.