Haste on Farm Bill Produces Faulty Budget Math

Last week we warned that the rush to pass the farm bill would make it difficult for the Congressional Budget Office to turn around a comprehensive budgetary score of the proposal. The implications of tariffs and reciprocal trade actions would also made it difficult to project the cost of commodity prices over the next few months, let alone the next several years.

The Senate didn't even take the potential score into consideration as it proceeded to vote on the farm bill conference report yesterday. As Daren Bakst of the Heritage Foundation wrote, the Senate passed the bill "even though the cost of the bill wasn't released before the vote (give or take a few minutes)."

CBO estimated that it would cost $428.3 billion over five years (which is $1.8 billion more than CBO's April baseline) and $867.3 billion over the next decade. However, the total cost of the bill is unknown: CBO did not have time to estimate "the additional discretionary spending that would result from implementing [the farm bill conference report]."

The House will take up the measure this afternoon, giving Members less than one day to consider the implications of the faulty budget math. That’s a big gamble to take with taxpayer dollars, particularly as CBO reported on Monday that  federal budget deficit was $303 billion for the first two months of FY 2019.