There’s a great deal of publicity surrounding the ongoing debate in the U.S. House on its version of the Farm Bill, most of it lambasting the “waste” and “giveaways” and “subsidies” that the senders of said publicity find appalling.
But when you start going down the list of just exactly what it is that is so appalling, my vote goes to the misleading verbage and outright lies in the press releases about what the Farm Bill would do.
Example: “Subsidize the marketing of sheep and goats.”
This not-exactly-new program refers to the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center, set up through the 1996 Farm Bill with a revolving fund of up to $50 million, to be used by a “new (in 1996), eventually privatized, center that aims to revive the declining U.S. sheep and goat industries through loans and loan guarantees for such activities as improving production and marketing methods, purchasing new equipment, and modernizing processing facilities.”
Note the language refers to LOANS. As in money that people borrow, use and pay back. It has nothing to do with subsidies and very little to do with marketing.
There is also outrage that farms with an adjusted gross income of $950,000 would qualify for crop insurance subsidies. Apparently they haven’t looked much into the difference between GROSS income, as in all the money coming in and NET income, what is left over once you pay the bills incurred in the generation of gross income. Looking at net income rather than gross income quickly establishes that farmers are not getting rich at the taxpayers’ expense and $950,000 gross income is not, by any stretch, a “factory” farm with runaway profits.
Perhaps my favorite is “establish a tax to promote Christmas trees.” The blogger on this one waxes eloquent about how Christmas trees sell themselves and a “tax” would be a ridiculous burden passed on to struggling consumers. In reality, we’re talking about a check-off program to help Christmas tree growers, most of whom are family farmers with limited acreage, with a whole variety of issues that have nothing to do with taxing anybody. Watch for more on that in the August Kansas Farmer when I will share what Christmas tree growers have to say about it.
There is absolutely no doubt that there are things in any Farm Bill that could be trimmed without tilting the continents.
There are also things that are essential to keeping food, fiber and fuel in plentiful, affordable supply. And things that are essential to making sure that the richest nation in the world does not shrug and turn away from children who go to school hungry, and to bed hungry day after day.
I hope my elected representatives will get around to thoughtful, honest consideration of the real issues faced by farmers and the needs of struggling, poor families at some point. If I were holding my breath on that, I would have been dead last year. But hey, hope springs eternal.