Congressman McClintock delivered the following remarks on the House floor about the Farm bill, H.R. 1947 - Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013. The measure will be voted on the week of June 17, 2013.
The Farm Bill
June 19, 2013
The Farm Bill is now before us, a measure originating in the House of Representatives whose majority was elected on a clear mandate to stop wasting money. Yet all this bill does is to continue to waste money.
Yes, it tightens up a little on automatic eligibility for the food stamp program and that’s a good thing. Yet this modest reform is a poor substitute for the complete overhaul that is desperately needed.
The Food Stamp program – now called SNAP -- was originally intended to provide basic commodities to the poor. Yet I cannot count the number of constituents who have complained to me in recent years about standing in a grocery line and watching the person in front of them use SNAP cards to buy luxuries that these hardworking taxpayers could not themselves afford.
But it is the corporate welfare provisions that this bill continues -- and in some cases expands -- that I find the most offensive.
Yes, the bill shifts us away from direct payments to farmers, but it instead greatly expands taxpayer subsidized crop insurance programs, eating up about ¾ of the savings the supporters purport to achieve. The practical effect is to guarantee profits to farmers, while shifting their losses to taxpayers.
We’re told that if the bill fails, these wasteful programs will continue with no reform. Actually, many of the most wasteful programs would expire, like the $150 million to advertise farmers markets. But the fine point of it is this: if this bill is defeated, the House can take up real reform at any time. If it is passed, we kick that can another FIVE YEARS down the road.
To those who say this is a small step in the right direction, I would agree. It makes tiny changes in an utterly atrocious program. According the CBO, it would save all of 3.4 percent from the baseline over the next five years – hardly a crowning achievement for fiscal reform.
But there is no blinking at the fact that these programs are fundamentally unfair and grossly wasteful, and this bill locks them into law for another five years. If the supporters of this bill were actually interested in incremental reform, this would be a one-year re-authorization with additional reforms planned for next year. It most decidedly is not.
Let me explain clearly what this bill means to an average, hardworking, taxpaying family in my district.
That family must struggle and scrimp to keep their shop open. They bear the entire financial risk of failure. And their profits – if there are any – are heavily taxed.
A portion of that family’s taxes goes to the agriculture industry for the express purpose of inflating the prices that family must pay at the grocery store. As a result, when that family goes grocery shopping, it must scrimp again in order to bear those artificially higher prices – that have been forced up by their own high taxes.
As that family stands in the check-out line with their ground chuck for the barbecue tonight, they watch SNAP cards used by others to pay for premium steaks that family can’t afford for itself, but which are paid for by that family’s own high taxes.
If the economy sours, that family bears its own losses, while it also pays to cover the losses of the same agricultural interests responsible for their pain at the grocery store.
The bill before us continues this travesty for another five years with soothing assurances from its supporters to cheer up – things could be worse.
Actually, things couldn’t be much worse, and they could be a whole lot better. This bill, for example, could be defeated and replaced with genuine reform. The government could be withdrawn from its corrupt interventions in agricultural markets. The food stamp program could be restored to its original purpose to provide basic commodities to the truly needy. Individual consumers could be freed to determine the price of their groceries by the decisions they make every day over what to spend at the grocery store, not on the basis of what deals were cut in Congress.
The Roman writer Phaedrus summed up this bill rather neatly 20 Centuries ago: A mountain was in labor, sending forth dreadful groans, and there was in the region the highest expectation. After all, it brought forth a mouse.