Congress’ farm bill falls $29 billion short of Obama’s proposed cuts

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WASHINGTON (Feb. 4, 2014) – The R Street Institute today called on President Barack Obama to use his veto pen to reject the five-year farm bill approved by Congress, which falls far short of the budget savings requested by the White House in its Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

Approved today by the U.S. Senate by a 68-32 margin after previously clearing the U.S. House last week, the conference report farm bill is projected by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to reduce federal spending by just $16.6 billion over the next decade, only $8.6 billion of which comes from trimming wasteful farm subsidies. That compares to $37.8 billion in net cuts requested by the White House in its 2014 budget proposal.

“The Obama administration is not exactly known for austere budgets, so the fact that the White House would cut $29.2 billion more in wasteful agriculture spending than the farm bill Congress approved underscores just how terrible this legislation is,” R Street Senior Fellow Andrew Moylan said.

While Congress and the White House reached consensus that the time has come to finally end the awful “direct payments” program, Congress squandered most of those savings through the creation of a variety of new “shallow loss” insurance programs that look to lock in record-high commodity prices. The White House also proposed scaling back premium subsidies for crop insurance as well as administrative and operating expense subsidies to crop insurance companies, while the bill passed by Congress actually expands the crop insurance subsidies, a program with no limits or caps whatsoever to hold down costs.

“Given that shallow loss places trillions of dollars of market price fluctuation risk on the backs of taxpayers, we would not be surprised to find that this bill actually proves to be more expensive than a straight extension of existing law,” Moylan said. “We call on the president to use his pen to veto this measure and insist that Congress return a bill that at least meets his own modest budget savings demands.”

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