More reforms are needed
The nearly $1 trillion, five-year farm bill that passed the House Tuesday with a comfortable bipartisan cushion of 251-166 is substantially better than the bill that the House pushed last year.
Most notably, the Republican leadership relented on its plan to eviscerate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - food stamps. Last year the bill included $20 billion in SNAP cuts over 10 years. The passed measure includes an $8 billion reduction, affecting 850,000 households, nearly twice the $4.1 billion reduction passed last year by Senate Democrats.
It's a major compromise. Yet the $8 billion is nearly half of the total $16.1 billion in savings that the bill projects over 10 years. Those cuts will come off of needy families' tables even as the bill continues to heap unwarranted subsidies on wealthy interests, especially the sugar industry.
Beyond the reduced food stamp cuts, the bill takes a major positive step in eliminating direct payments to farmers regardless of whether they grow crops. That will save about $5 billion, although some of the money will go to increase subsidies for farmers' crop insurance, another major pork handout under which taxpayers pay 62 percent of premiums plus insurers' administrative costs.
Given the polarization that has been the hallmark of Congress for five years, the compromise is something of an achievement. But it should not be confused with reforming a system that continues to favor wealthy interests.