Farm Bill Analysis: Conservatives Should Oppose Increased Subsidies to the Rich

Last night, the Senate and House farm bill conferees released their conference report on the 2018 Farm Bill, H.R. 2, which left the few free wins taxpayers had achieved through the legislative process on the cutting room floor. Taxpayers had supported a lower Adjusted Gross Income commodity payment cap - from $900,000 to $700,000 - along with work requirements for farmers receiving subsidy payments. Instead, the final version contains multiple provisions that maintain loopholes, maximize the redistribution of taxpayer funds to wealthy agribusinesses, and increase opportunities for waste and fraud.

National Taxpayers Union Director of Federal Affairs, Nan Swift, responded:

Taxpayers are dismayed that Congress is poised to consider a farm bill that would expand welfare to the wealthy. This is particularly troubling in that welfare reform was an initial goal of the House Agriculture Committee and a majority of the Members of both chambers claim to espouse free market, limited-government principles. Past farm bills made progress in this area, incrementally improving the farm safety net to better target those who need it most and protect taxpayers. H.R. 2 would reverse years of progress and expand eligibility of unnecessary taxpayer subsidies to new groups, making it even more challenging to achieve reforms in the future.

Congress had many opportunities to pursue reforms. President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget contained numerous recommendations that would have saved approximately $47 billion over ten years through eliminating loopholes, tightened means-testing, and ending special treatment for certain crops. In the Senate and House, basic work requirements for farmers receiving subsidies, which had previously passed both chambers, were championed by both Republicans and Democrats. Particularly as debt projections grow more dire, these modest reforms should have been achieved.

Conservatives, who fought hard for SNAP work requirements and other reforms, should oppose this bill as a major step backward for fiscal and individual responsibility, both for able-bodied individuals and wealthy agribusinesses.