How is it that in a country with a government elected to represent all of the people, we end up with legislation that favors the very tiny minority? The Farm Bill, which passed through the House last Thursday, is one such example of woefully unbalanced legislative chicanery. Under the guise of fiscal responsibility, House Republicans passed a bill that strips funding for the US food stamp program while adding piles of money to the antiquated, unbalanced farm subsidy program.
Traditionally, the Farm Bill has consisted of 20% farmer subsidy and 80% food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). But in order to pass the bill, Representatives stripped SNAP out entirely, moving funding solely to farmers. The bill saves 20 billion dollars but moves that savings into additional crop insurance subsidies.
Farm subsidies can be a good thing; without a robust food system, it is difficult for a country to thrive independently. The problem is that the subsidies often go to those who need it the least. Large scale farmers earn, on average, more than the average American. But according to the conservative CATO institute, 90% of subsidies go to wheat, corn, soybean, cotton and rice farmers, with most of the payments going to the big-agriculture producers who don’t need the additional income at all. Even still, in Washington it’s the money that talks, and lobbyists and big-ag made sure their voices were heard. Hardly shocking given the fact that a full 28% of political donations now come from just .01% of the population. So the unnecessary funding will continue while those who actually need government assistance are left out in the cold.
To be fair, stripping SNAP out of the bill doesn’t actually cut food assistance. The program remains as it is until it is either renewed or allowed to expire in September. But the problem is that now, with food assistance and farm subsidies divorced, the issue becomes a deeply partisan one and makes government food programs much more vulnerable to future cuts and defunding. Now that the House has served its wealthy donors, representatives have pledged to address SNAP later this month, so only time will tell whether those in need will be helped out or simply forgotten.