House Farm Bill Fails and Chaos Reigns

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Last week the House of Representatives unexpectedly failed to pass a new 5-year farm bill. Without legislation, policies covering everything from crop insurance and commodity subsidies to conservation programs and food stamps will revert to the 1949 farm bill — the last permanent one written into law.

While the Senate passed its $955 billion bill earlier in June with 66 votes, the $940 billion House version was more contentious. Democrats objected to $20.5 billion in cuts to food stamp programs over the next 10 years, with the President threatening a veto, and Republicans objected partly to a $9 billion increase in crop insurance spending.

Both bills represent lost opportunities to fundamentally reform farm subsidy programs. One way to do that would be to follow the recent Simpson-Bowles proposal recommending elimination of direct and countercyclical payments along with crop insurance.

That would generate savings of at least $40 billion over 10 years while still implementing programs designed to protect farmers from dramatic risks. The Simpson-Bowles proposal also avoids cuts to the food stamp program and echoes a similar bipartisan proposal from the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force.

External links:
Washington Post Article on House and Senate Farm Bills
Politico: How the Farm Bill Failed

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