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2014 farm bill: austerity for poor families; business as usual for agribusiness

February 5, 2014

From the New York Times:

Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers

On the plus side, the new farm bill encourages farmers who receive federal subsidies to implement new soil conservation practices and offers more assistance to farmers markets.

On the downside, it cuts over $8 billion in food assistance for needy families. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (D), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the bill’s author, argued that the cut to food stamps simply closes a loophole that states use to increase benefits for food stamp recipients, as if poor families receiving food assistance are living high on the hog.

At the same time, the bill leaves federal subsidies for the federal crop insurance program (which largely benefits large farms and agribusinesses and the 18 companies that are paid $1.4 billion a year to sell policies to farmers) untouched while barring the Agriculture Department from renegotiating lesser payments to crop insurers over the 5-year life of the bill, potentially giving private insurance companies more public money since Stabenow et al. apparently don’t think they’re receiving too much of it (unlike all those poor, greedy families struggling to feed themselves).

The bill was also passed without an initial requirement that lawmakers must publicly disclose if they or their immediate family members receive crop insurance subsidies, which would have made things a little more transparent, as well as a provision limiting premium subsidies for the wealthiest farmers.

Some say that Congress, flush with millionaires, is out of touch with their constituents; but I say they’re perfectly in touch with who they really serve, it just ain’t us.

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