Rep. DeSantis Statement on "Split Farm Bill"
Jul 12, 2013
Last month, the House defeated the so-called Farm bill, which was a $1 trillion bill that provided for agriculture subsidies and welfare, such as food stamps. I voted against it because it was too expensive and did not contain sufficient reforms to either agriculture subsidies or welfare spending.
After the defeat, the House leadership “split” the so-called farm bill into one standalone commodities bill and one standalone food stamp bill. These unrelated issues had for decades been combined in one big, omnibus bill for a simple political reason: vote buying. Combining the members who like farm subsidies with the members who like welfare spending typically generated a majority to pass the bill without anything close to exacting scrutiny. It is a pretty good rule of thumb in Washington that as bills become larger and more “comprehensive,” they become more conducive to being loaded with special goodies for preferred constituencies.
While I applaud the splitting of the bill, I also recognize that splitting the bill is simply a means to a more open process that will yield long-needed substantive reforms. The split farm bill, though, was considered under a “closed” rule, which meant we were not able to debate or vote on any amendments and, therefore, could not enact major reforms.
It is important to reform farm subsidies. Many of my Republican colleagues frequently criticize the soaring costs of the food stamp program and the ever-increasing number of Americans who seem dependent on them. For my part, I agree that some people game the system, that able-bodied recipients of taxpayer-financed welfare should be required to work as a condition of receiving aid, and that too many of our welfare programs foster dependency rather than independence. Having 47 million Americans on food stamps is a testament to the failure of federal policy and to the woefully inadequate economic “recovery.” We cannot support welfare reform for low income people but not also support reforming subsidies for large businesses and the politically-connected as well. I want American businesses of all stripes to do well but I do not believe dependency on government is good for either rich or poor.
Finally, this revised bill was posted at 2100 the evening before the vote. Passing the bill to find out what is in the bill is not good governance. The bill made the subsidy programs in the bill permanent--a change from the previous version which only authorized the policies for 5 years. Members had inadequate time to consider how permanently enacting policies such as enhanced crop insurance subsidies and shallow loss coverage (at a time of record farm income, no less) will affect taxpayers, and, indeed, the cost could be far more substantial that initially forecasted.
The bottom line is we need to reduce the pervasiveness of government in the economy, and I voted against the bill because I don't believe the bill will lead to long-term, pro-taxpayer changes. This is a shame, because reforming corporate welfare -- in the farm bill as well as in other areas -- would be a great place to begin the re-invigoration of the free market system.