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Let them eat cake, indeed.

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."

Food costs are rising and high unemployment and long-term unemployment has swelled the number of households requiring food assistance. Farmer do have rising production costs, largely because of fuel costs, but stealing food out of the mouths of hungry children is no answer to the fuel costs problem, not to mention being morally reprehensible. But it's what farm state legislators are there for.

At the moment, 61 percent of the subsidies that the U.S. provides for agriculture go to just ten percent of recipients. Though some restrictions on rich farmers receiving subsidies were placed into the 2008 farm bill, they were mostly ineffective. And entrenched lawmakers on the agriculture committee help to keep it that way:
The 15 congressional districts receiving the most in payments accounted for about a quarter of all farm aid…Representatives from nine of those districts serve on the House Agriculture Committee, including the panel’s top Democrat and Republican.

At the moment, 90 percent of agriculture subsidies go toward the production of just five crops — corn, wheat, rice, soy and cotton. “Most of that 90 percent went to the large farming corporations,” said Annie Shattuck of the Institute for Food & Development Policy. “Much of those commodities were not used for food, but for animal feed and industrial applications.

But what's a few million hungry people, as long as agri-business is still getting its healthy cut of taxpayer dollars.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 06:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by oo.

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Comment Preferences

  •  in related news on the GOP war against... (21+ / 0-)

    the poor and the middle class...

    The crazy, it burns:

    Susie Madrak of Crooks and Liars is reporting that the Minnesota GOP is pushing legislation that would make it a crime for people on public assistance to have more than $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. Get this -- this is a change from their initial proposal, which banned them from having any cash at all. House file 171 would make it illegal for MFIP (public assistance program) recipients to withdraw cash from the cash part of the grant and to make it illegal if they withdraw any cash at all.

    The law also singles out disabled single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid, who would also be prevented from withdrawing cash, instead making all payments using a debit card at places "pre-approved" to accept the card.

    Not only can you not have cash in your pocket or utilize the cash portion of the MFIP grant, but the government will tell you where you can use the debit cards.

    I know that when I wake up in the morning, my first thought is, "Goddamn those disabled people going around with the nerve to carry cash as if they were real Americans! Why doesn't some conservative small-government-loving patriotic politician do something about this travesty?

    p.s. enforcement would be done how, exactly?

    Oh, Speaker Boehner, is that a tan? I thought you'd been attacked by a mob of orange sharpies!

    by Terminus on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 06:47:44 AM PDT

  •  This misappropriation of public funds (11+ / 0-)

    to private interests is unConstitutional.

    Congress may say it's legal, but I say it's theft of public funds, pure and simple.

    Why do these privatization scams go uninvestigated and unprosecuted?

    It's just like the misappropriation of state-run pension fund monies. They used the current funds for budget offsets, claim the funds are broke and then claw back for more contributions from the very same people who made them!

    This is plainly a ripoff! I wouldn't send a penny more to such negligent fools.

    •  I live around a fair number of farmers in (5+ / 0-)

      upstate NY, and I've never heard of them getting cash subsidies.  These are of course, small farmers, not agribusinesses.

      There are government programs that help small farmers the right way - a diary compact that helps smooth out the price of milk for farmers so they don't get whiped out when milk prices fall.'

      Not only are the subsidies going to agribusiness that don't need subsidies, but once again they exist in states that are all for 'get the government off my back' routine.

      I wish we could respect their wishes and stop the subsidies, but no chance of that.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:36:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ordinary farmers do not get (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        assistance from the government....only the privileged big businesses are eligible for that....sorta like the oil companies.

        "Activism begins with you, Democracy begins with you, get out there, get active! Tag, you're it!" Thom Hartmann

        by glogrrl on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 09:16:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  they might not benefit as much, but..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          That is actually not true.

          As the original post states, the bulk of dollars from those direct payments tend to flow to the largest producers, but most family-scale farms also receive payments or price supports of one kind or another - with a few exceptions like very small scale vegetable operations.

        •  Don't forget Clint Didier and Michelle Bachmann, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HylasBrook, ezdidit

          hard core republicans who DO get subsidies not to farm. And all the ones in Tennessee who showed up getting that money during the last election.  I would surely think at least the Congresscritters who get subsidies should disqualify themselves. But, no.

  •  These idiots should not be tolerated any longer! (9+ / 0-)

    In future, we will call this embezzlement. But not yet.

  •  Completely backwards (14+ / 0-)

    The republican war on the American people continues.  

    this is how far your thinking can become when there is such a tremendous gap in the haves and the have nots.  Just like in France in the 1700's.  Let them eat cake.

    •  Instead of subsidies, buy the crops and (0+ / 0-)

      then give the food free first to the poor in the United States and then the rest to the starving millions around the world.  Oops! Forgot that the same folks that get the farm subsidies are the same people involved in military contracts . . .

      "My heart aches when I see so many needlessly die; hunger and pestilence stalk the Earth. Nothing so moves Me to grief as this shame. The crime of separation must be driven from this world. I affirm that as My Purpose."
      - From "Messages from Maitreya the Chris

  •  Lets not make this (6+ / 0-)

    a fight between farmers and hungry people.

    You've framed this as being about one or the other. "We can either cut farm subsidies or food stamps." Why do we have to cut either?

    This is classic division: pitting the rural against the urban, pitting the needs of the urban poor and working-class against the rural poor and working-class.

    A small farmer is like a teacher: he isn't in it for the fortune its going to make him.

    "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

    by Reepicheep on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:02:13 AM PDT

    •  As small farmers would tell you... (18+ / 0-)

      ...they get only a small share of subsidies.  We should eliminate subsidies for better-off and corporate farmers.  Right now the rhetoric and (relatively) occasional reality of small farmers is covering-up a massive subsidy program for wealthy and corporate farmers.  

      Todo tiempo pasado fue mejor. I don't believe that, but I hear this sig is permanent.

      by Rich in PA on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:07:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly! This is one more lie the Republicans (5+ / 0-)

        tell the American people - remember when they repealed the 'death tax'?  They used the image of someone handing down the family farm or family business.   Only thing, most of those 'familiy businesses' had incomes below the original $600K exemption for estate taxes.

        Republicans (sadly) have done a good job of convincing people that every single dollar of their tax money goes to support people on welfare.

        It blinds voters to the fact that the 'welfare' they're paying for is corporate welfare.

        When are voters going to wake up?

        HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

        by HylasBrook on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:44:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  EWG is the winger's favorite green group (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        They constantly overestimate farm payments (mostly by including payments for environmental improvements which any smart small farmer should be taking advantage of) and give conservatives a tool to bash the ag dept, taking aim at nutrition programs instead of corporate welfare. This pdf of the proposed 2012 ag dept budget has direct payments to farmers at $4.3 billion and nutrition programs for the poor at $111 billion. Neither should be cut.
        I have watched republicans use these divide and conquer tactics to gut the Democratic coalition for the last 30 years. The rhetoric in these discussions makes it almost impossible for progressive farm groups to gain any traction with the general farm population. Come on guys, we are all in this fight together.

      •  You mean "deserving" people (0+ / 0-)

        like Crazyeyes Michelle Bachmann?

        "Activism begins with you, Democracy begins with you, get out there, get active! Tag, you're it!" Thom Hartmann

        by glogrrl on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 09:17:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Propaganda strategy of every austerity initiative: (8+ / 0-)

      Divide and conquer.

    •  This isn't about farmers. (7+ / 0-)

      How I wish it were. My father was a farmer and lost everything while Big Ag ate up properties all around us and pushed small farmers out of business.

      The subsidies being mentioned here go primarily to farmers who own or cash rent large acreage, not small family farms with 500 or less acres. Those farms, for the most part, don't even exist anymore. It's impossible to make a living farming unless you are planting thousands of acres. And that takes money and machinery and small farmers don't have either.

      I can just about forgive the Brits for starting our revolutionary war and burning DC to the ground during the war of 1812 for giving us Led Zeppelin.

      by Pager on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:44:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes - just like large corporations drove out (5+ / 0-)

        small businesses, agri-business drove out small farmers.

        In the Northeast (and probably elsewhere) there are suburban home developments where once there were farms.  The combination of competition from big farms out west, food imported from South America, and rapidly rising property taxes forced farmers to sell their land.

        There are some farm programs that would help small farmers, especially dairymen -- milk barns use lots of electricity -- why not have programs to help those farmers install solar arrays and wind turbines to produce electricity?

        And added benefit in the northeast is that the dairy could continue to operate during power outages.  Cows that can't be milked develope conditions that mean they have to be put down.   Have a farm-based source of electricity would take care of that.

        HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

        by HylasBrook on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:01:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My dad was farming 1,500 acres in the 1960s (0+ / 0-)

        It is definitely possible for one family to sustainably farm a lot of land with modern equipment. It takes a lot of planning and hard work, but it is still possible. My niece's husband farms several thousand acres with his father in a state where corporate farming is outlawed. Progressives need to dump this image of farming that is stuck in Little House on the Prairie days.

        •  modern? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Reepicheep, Margd

          Without specific knowledge, I can't comment on the sustainability of the farms you give as examples.

          But the term "modern" has been twisted by the public relations hacks employed by industrial agriculture.  To the PR hacks, "modern" means:

          -Factory Farms where hogs and chickens are packed in like sardines and fed an anti-biotic laced diet

          -Megadairies where immigrant labor is exploited and the cow's hooves never touch grass

          -Acres of genetically-modified row crops doused with pesticides and synthetic fertilizer

          -Rural communities racked with poverty, contaminated water, and toxic air, that reflect a new form of corporate feudalism

          None of those things are sustainable, either in economic or environmental terms.

          I apologize if that was not the kind of "modern" you were referring to.

        •  I nevr said it didn't. (0+ / 0-)

          I said that if you don't own a lot of acreage (we had 300 acres), you won't stay in business long and you can't afford to buy the machinery in order to expand your operation because you aren't making enough off such a small parcel to put out $250K for a new combine.

          I can just about forgive the Brits for starting our revolutionary war and burning DC to the ground during the war of 1812 for giving us Led Zeppelin.

          by Pager on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 09:50:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  It's welfare, plain and simple! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happymisanthropy, here4tehbeer, DawnN

      Corporate welfare. It's anti freemarket. It's against everything the Republicans say they're against.

      "I've taken up sculpting recently. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:45:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Likewise the massive, ongoing tax breaks to (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DawnN, eXtina, Margd

        the Big Oil companies who still seem able to hold a loaded gun gas pump nozzle to congress' head and demand these breaks or else they'll do (or not do) "something."

        Yeah? You mean they'll stop doing whatever they've been doing to rake in their ongoing, record-breaking profits for the past few years?  Really?  

        Sure they will.  Sure they will.

        Fox News: Standard-Bearers of Stupid since 1996.

        by here4tehbeer on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:25:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  the farming community is already divided.... (9+ / 0-)

      I understand your reasoning, but if you dig a little deeper I think you'll see that the subsidy debate already divides the farm community.

      The subsidy kings who receive the largest benefits from the commodity title are not "rural poor".  Where I live, they use direct payments to leverage more farmland, grow more corn and beans on fragile soils, and flood the market with their artificially cheap product.

      Grain subsidies have resulted in exorbitant land rents.  I can't afford to rent or buy more ground to pasture my cattle - which would be far more environmentally responsible than growing corn and beans in the hills of the Driftless Area.

      Grain subsidies have resulted in an enlarging dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico due to nutrient runoff from overfertilized cash crops.

      Grain subsidies have resulted in soybeans and corn being omnipresent in our unhealthy diet that results from our misguided "cheap food" policy.

      If the government is really interested in supporting the family-scale farm and protecting human health and the environment, the commodity title would be replaced by initiatives like the Conservations Stewardship Program.

      CSP pays farmers to adopt practices that benefit the environment while they continue to produce food and fiber.  Full adoption of this program and dropping the subsidy system would tilt the table back in favor of sustainable, family-scale farms.

    •  One good way to cut subsidies is limit it to small (0+ / 0-)

      actively farming farmers, with a tight definition of both 'small'  and 'actively farming'  and eliminating all those who farm on contract for the big guys and have to pass along either in price discounts or other ways whatever farming subs the little guys get. And then cap the amount. That would help a good bit but not Tyson and those others who collect like bandits and give a part of their swag to Congresscritters to keep the money river flowing. That much money for fifteen congressional districts is absurd.

  •  They certainly hate children. (6+ / 0-)

    Providing food to adults is important enough but this will hit children harder.  

    •  Less food for children, less prenatal care (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hopi13, maryabein, DawnN

      for children (including assurance that mothers eat properly while pregnant) unaffordable well baby care for kids.  Even ones who's family is on medicaid are suffering cut backs there.

      Better nutrition = less low birthweight babies, healthier kids, fewer ER treatments, etc. etc.  In the long run, better nutrition equals healthier people and fewer trips to the ER which saves money over time.

      Of course letting the CEO of an agri-business to be able to trade up from a 28-foot yatch to a 30-foot yatch is so much more important.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:48:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But what about all those babies (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        who are being born as a result of the restrictions on a woman's right to choose?

        THOSE kids will be well taken care of, won't they? (NOT)

        "Activism begins with you, Democracy begins with you, get out there, get active! Tag, you're it!" Thom Hartmann

        by glogrrl on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 09:19:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good Links (8+ / 0-)

    The Bloomberg article singled out the Congressional District of North Dakota for receiving government largess.  Now I understand why North Dakota banks managed to avoid the financial meltdown.  The American taxpayer has kept them propped up.

    The trolls are busy on Think Progress trying to keep the attention on those welfare cheats who have the nerve to need to eat nourishing food.  

    Don't look back, something may be gaining on you. - L. "Satchel" Paige

    by arlene on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:04:41 AM PDT

    •  The Progressive Caucus needs to lay down the law (5+ / 0-) ND's three-person congressional delegation: either you support our spending, or your spending will be zeroed out and your state won't exist anymore.  These extreme cases of states who misanthropically oppose well-being for others but insist of our payment in full for their well-bring have to be fought ruthlessly.

      Todo tiempo pasado fue mejor. I don't believe that, but I hear this sig is permanent.

      by Rich in PA on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:09:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've never understood how the least (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HylasBrook, DawnN

        populous states with the smallest delegation could accrue such power.

        "I've taken up sculpting recently. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

        by eXtina on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:46:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's a flaw in the Constitution. The framers (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          wanted to keep populous states from totally dominating the small states.   As it worked out the opposite is occuring.

          Wyoming has 17 times as much representation in congress as people in New York.

          HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

          by HylasBrook on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:06:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Whose fault is that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Progressives could totally dominate the smaller states if they would just devote a tiny fraction of their organizing resources to these states. Remember the farm protest movement gave us Paul Wellstone. Minneapolis gave us Michelle Bachmann.

            •  Very true -- too many Democrats don't (0+ / 0-)

              pay attention to what goes on in their state legislatures.  They don't know who their senators or assemblypersons are, what their positions are, etc.

              Republicans always vote for Republicans, but Democratic voters don't pay attention.

              We as progressive have to work at canvassing and phone banking for the President, our Senators, and then also our state legislators.

              Not easy because districts overlap.  Not easy to get things like this through people's head.


              HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

              by HylasBrook on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 01:47:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  And they will laugh in your face (0+ / 0-)

        Commodity prices are high enough now that the state's farmers don't receive anything except for environmental preservation programs. Plus, the state is undergoing a huge oil boom that has the state looking for ways to give away money. And last time I looked, North Dakota's delegation was a lot more progressive for the last 20 years than PA's pair of Snarlin Arlen and that frothy mix of lube and feces.

  •  Where do they think this is (11+ / 0-)

    going to go?  

    Are people on assistance going to magically find jobs and magically get well enough to work?

  •  Food prices are crazy! (9+ / 0-)

    I had sticker-shock at the store last week.  Rising gas prices means higher prices for food.  

    Couponing can only help so much.  Coupons are generally for manufactured crap, so if you're buying fresh fruits, veggies, and meats you're not going to benefit from coupons.

    So, this creates an incentive to buy manufactured crap instead of fresh food.  Manufactured crap is full of salt, sugar, and fat -- custom-designed to make you crave more.  And then what happens?  You buy more manufactured crap and you gain weight.

    It's not just about screwing the poor, though that's attractive to the Republicans.  It's about pushing people towards an ever-increasing dependence on processed foods and guaranteeing an income stream for Kraft, RJR Nabisco, and other food processors.

    I support public employee's unions.

    by Tracker on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:05:05 AM PDT

    •  Progressives have been calling the government (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tracker, eXtina, DawnN, Margd

      on that for a long time.  Why is cheap, processed junk food far less expensive than vegetables?   Farm & business subsidies.

      It's hard to deal with the obesity epidemic when many people can't afford to buy good food.

      HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

      by HylasBrook on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:08:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  But we can't cut the subsidy to ADM!!!! (7+ / 0-)

    Gosh, they're not profitable enough, already!

    They only made $1.92B profit last year.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    -Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:10:32 AM PDT

  •  The Democratic Party (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GAladybug, Pager, HylasBrook, DawnN

    Is no better than the Republican Party with respect to farm subsidies.

    One needs to look back no farther than the last Farm Bill for the proof of this.

    I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

    by superscalar on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:11:43 AM PDT

    •  The Democratic Party (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Matt Z, GAladybug, HylasBrook, DawnN

      is no better than we demand them to be.  It's time to take back the reins.

      •  Definitely - I don't know how we'll do it. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        President Obama has 'pragmatized' himself so much I'm not sure he'll swing to the left after the '12 election.

        And even if he is willing to compromise less with the Republicans, are the Democrats in Congress going to back him?

        I don't think either can go it alone.   Meanwhile, Obama and the Congressional Dems are standing at the door saying "You go first", "No you go first.."  while the Republicans are driving through the door with a big MAC truck.


        HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

        by HylasBrook on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:12:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Interactive budget exercise on WaPo has (0+ / 0-)

    option of cutting out farm subsidies. It's so easy to slash the deficit just by simply removing this subsidy. But so hard for obligated politicians. It's not even entirely true that you can't cut part of the discretionary spending budget and not make any difference as the exercise proves.

    "I've taken up sculpting recently. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:36:41 AM PDT

  •  Or, "I did NOT have sex with that ADM rep" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hopi13, happymisanthropy

    She was from ConAgra, silly!

    "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

    by kovie on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:52:39 AM PDT

  •  Farmers are the worst of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the new welfare queens. Along with the banksters and the oil folks they want socialism for themselves while vilifying the poor.

  •  Farmers??? What Farmers? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, DawnN, MrJersey
    ...even as farmers profit from the tightening market.

    There are no more farmers in the US.
    What we now have are Corporate Soil Miners.

    Nuclear Reactor = Dirty Bomb

    by olo on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:15:43 AM PDT

  •  The latest National Geographic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, DawnN, Margd

    had an article on perennial food crops.  Thousands of years ago, humans decided to farm annual crops.  But there are loads of perennial plants that could be farmed just as effectively.  Perennial plants are better for the environment, as their deeper roots are naturally drought-resistant and reduce soil erosion.

    While reading this article, all I could think was "Monsanto and ConAgra are going to have a shitfit over this!"

    I support public employee's unions.

    by Tracker on Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 08:24:28 AM PDT

  •  I have a problem with the commodity tax breaks.... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, Tracker, DawnN, Margd, MrJersey

    Even before you factor in the fact that these breaks are being considered as keepers instead of assistance for people receiving SNAP.  

    If you follow the line from these subsidies for commodity foods, you would also see that not only do we pay the price in the benefit to the farmers, but we also pay for it in lost productivity because this type of crap food product is adding to our obesity problem...which adds to our health care costs because people are unable to work or unable to stay healthy because they are consuming garbage.  

    So kick these subsidies to the curb and help people eat real food.  Especially when they are in danger of not being able to put food on their plates to begin with.  

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