Our Executive Director Weighs in on the Farm Bill

February 29, 2012

The below blog was on New York Time’s Room for Debate last week where the question was asked, “In this sprawling legislation, what is missing that should be added? What is in the bill but should be eliminated?” Now before you go thinking I’ve forgotten my agriculture roots, I want to make a few points.

I still believe there needs to be a farm bill and that it serves a purpose, but we have all seen first hand how some abuse a system designed to be a safety net for their own financial gain.  Justlook at the map below (http://www.usda.gov/documents/8907Manhattanmap.pdf) to see the payments that those in New York City receive.

I think we all know that Manhattan is an island and doesn’t have the vast farmland that Oklahoma does. Also, based on what the farm journals and others report, the farm bill is chalked full of goodies that lobbyists have worked hard to get included.  Remember how the cost of feed went up when ethanol started getting subsidized? We know how that biofuel experiment went.  The public rejected it. Think of how much it cost all of us, not just in tax dollars, but also in feed costs.  That’s just one example and there are plenty of others.

For the most part, back home in Tillman County, we are the descendants of pioneers.  We understand how important it is to have a long-term view and that short term struggles can benefit us in the end.  We are one of the top 7 countries in the world when it comes to debt.While we watch what is playing out in Europe, we know what our future will look like if we don’t do something today.  The point I was making in my allotted word count, was that we need to think about our tomorrow, think about the next generation and if there are ways we can scale back today to save tomorrow.  That’s what we are always fighting for – making it to the next harvest or the next sale of the feeder steers.  On the farm and ranch, we are always doing things today to reap rewards months and sometime years in the future.  We shouldn’t be treating the farm bill any differently.

The original NYT Blog post:

“I grew up on a farm and ranch in Southwest Oklahoma, so it’s not surprising that my first foray into Congressional politics was a letter I wrote in high school to encourage my representative, J.C. Watts, to vote for the farm bill. Back in 1996 I had a different idea about how policy affects our lives. Now, having served on Capitol Hill and in the White House, I see that programs like these have allowed Washington to create an unbalanced system, one that protects special interests rather than taxpayers.

Huge federal spending allows large and small businesses, farmers and ranchers, and others to game the system for financial gain at the expense of taxpayers. This system encourages greed and deceit by the players — and we, the taxpayers, are the losers.

The farm bill is evidence of this. It has gone way past the original intent of the bill to ensure there was a steady and affordable food supply, and in doing so, now encourages many in agribusiness to play a game, instead of focusing on creating value. What this farm bill is missing are the basics — and basic fiscal responsibility. Because it is so bloated, today’s farm bill may come at the expense of any future farm bill because, in a few years when these programs are again up for reauthorization, the federal government may be too broke to play the game anymore.”

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