As his reality-challenged reelection campaign swung through drought-ravaged swing state Iowa earlier this month, Candidate-in-Chief Obama accused his new VP candidate nemesis Rep. Paul Ryan of being “…one of those leaders in Congress standing in the way “…of a farm bill that would “provide relief and certainty to U.S. farmers and ranchers.” He said, “So, if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities. It’s time to put politics aside and pass it right away.”
The farm bill that President Obama was referring to, and that the Senate had passed, is proposed as an extension to current legislation which is due to expire next month. That new plan would cost taxpayers nearly $1 trillion over the next ten years, with an estimated $770 billion of that money going to fund an already out-of-control food stamp program. Yes, the vast majority of all the money budgeted to support the “Federal Agricultural Reform and Management Act” is specifically earmarked for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as the food stamp program.
Food stamp program costs doubled between 2001 and 2006, and then doubled again between 2008 and 2012. Under the Obama administration, the number of food stamp recipients has also grown dramatically, up from 28.2 million in 2008 to more than 44.7 million in fiscal 2011. The proposed Senate extension will essentially lock in an $80 billion per year food stamp budget, but for appearances will, “cut spending” by a token $4.5 billion over the next decade….
The Senate plan contains some big, open Republican panhandling palm prints as well…. Even at today’s historically high crop prices, the program will cost taxpayers $3 billion. According to American Enterprise Institute estimates, when prices inevitably fall, those shallow-loss payments will balloon to $14 billion annually….
While not entirely above pandering for corn state swing votes, the House (including Congressman Ryan) did pass a stand-alone $383 million emergency drought relief bill before leaving on recess. And although this is a great deal lower than the $230 million of the trillion dollars actually slated for farmers in the Obama/Senate bill, this still doesn’t make it fiscally warranted….
Apparently the proposed Senate “farm bill” version is what USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak was referring to when he urged Congress to work with the Obama administration on ways to improve drought aid to farmers. But he hasn’t indicated much concern about any need for drought aid necessary to help farmers and ranchers who are being impacted by escalating corn-based ethanol mandates which compete for livestock feed, raising food costs for everyone. These burdens fall heaviest upon our poorest citizens…most particularly including families on food stamps.
Here again, Republicans deserve lots of the blame as well. For example, Mitt Romney’s newly released “all of the above” energy plan is way over the top in this regard. While thankfully opening up more federal lands and waters for oil and gas development, expediting drilling permits by transferring approval processes to states, and supporting the Keystone pipeline, it continues to endorse the ethanol mandate debacle….
The Federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) continues to force refiners to sell larger amounts of corn ethanol and other biofuels each year, regardless of weather, supply demand, or cost influences. These “volumetric targets” increase from 4.0 billion gallons in 2006, to 36 billion gallons in 2022. While the amount of corn ethanol qualifying as “renewable” will max out at 15 billion gallons in 2015, it already consumes about 40 percent of annual U.S. corn crops.
Corn price volatility has more than doubled since RPS was enacted in 2007. Consumer food cost inflation, relative to all other goods, has risen to twice its 2005-2007 rate of increase as well due to sharp increases in corn, soybean and wheat prices. Corn prices have increased from $2.00/bushel in 2005/2006, to $6.00/bushel in 2011/2012. During these same periods, corn use for ethanol increased from 1.6 billion bushels to an estimated 5 billion, while feed-use corn declined from 6.2 billion bushels to an estimated 4.6 billion…and corn exports declined from 2.1 billion bushels to an estimated 1.7 billion.
Mandated ethanol use also places high cost penalties upon gasoline consumers, while, at the same time, providing little or no contribution to energy supplies. Instead, mandates have pushed our crude supplies into the export market. While ethanol typically sells for less than gasoline, a gallon of ethanol has only 67% of the net energy yielded by gasoline, meaning about one-third fewer miles per gallon. On that basis, it has never been competitively priced.
Nevertheless, as bad as the ethanol mandate and other bi-partisan election-pandering policies are, the “Farm Bill” raises budgetary buffoonery to a stratospheric new level. That trillion dollar legislation will do little to provide “…relief and certainty to U.S. farmers and ranchers”. That is unless, of course, they and other Obama voters elect to hang future hope and change aspirations upon food stamp hand-outs.
Excerpted from Forbes online. For the full article, go to http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2012/08/28/80-of-president-obamas-drought-relief-bill-is-for-food-stamps/