H/T Brendan, who passes along this news in which our elected officials continue to ignore the economic pain of millions:
The House Agriculture Committee endorsed a letter this week to Budget Chairman Paul Ryan arguing that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income Americans purchase food, would make a better target for cuts than automatic subsidies to farms.
The move comes as food prices are rising — the Department of Agriculture expects overall food prices to rise 3 percent to 4 percent this year — making it harder for the beneficiaries of SNAP to stretch their existing benefits, even as farmers profit from the tightening market. Critics across the political spectrum have called agricultural subsidies wasteful and unnecessary, and they question the logic of maintaining them as lawmakers hunt for budget cuts.
“Conspicuously missing from the list of mandatory spending cuts the Agriculture Committee has made or is proposing to make are commodity subsidies, and specifically the $4.9 billion in direct payments that are automatically paid out each year regardless of whether a person farms,” said Jake Caldwell, the director of agricultural policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. “It is shortsighted of the Committee to suggest cuts to SNAP, particularly as food prices are on the rise, Americans are spending more than 10 percent of their household budget on food, and more people are enrolled in the food stamp program than ever before.”
President Obama has endorsed cuts in agricultural subsidies as a way to lower the deficit without targeting essential programs, and lawmakers from both parties, like Ryan, R-Wis., have expressed similar opinions.
But the Agriculture Committee is dominated by members of Congress from farm states; Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has reported $445,714 in political contributions from the agricultural industry during the course of his career, and ranking Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota reports $809,097 in career donations.
The budget letter, endorsed by both Lucas and Peterson, argues that subsidies need to be in place for when record-high prices “inevitably” fall, and that higher prices have actually increased risks for farmers. But not even all farmers agree — the Iowa Farm Bureau voted its opposition to direct payment subsidies earlier this year. Brian Riedl, a fiscal policy expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that most large commercial farmers report an average annual income of $200,000, well in excess of the national average.