A vote for Senate Farm Bill is a vote to grow government

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The first clue this bill was bad news was the enthusiastic reaction from the Obama Administration, which noted that it “makes meaningful progress toward the administration’s goals.” This should be a red flag to anyone paying attention. The administration’s goals include increased “flexibility” in the delivery of international food aid, funding bio-energy programs, and rejecting any reductions in food stamp benefits. Most of those goals have little or nothing to do with helping farmers or encouraging fundamental agriculture research. Simply put, the modern day Farm Bill, as conceived by the Senate, is hardly about farmers anymore. It’s now about welfare.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded in its latest budget estimates that, beginning in 2010, more than 80 percent of all spending from the Farm Bill will go towards domestic food assistance. The primary recipient of that money is the food stamp program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While SNAP has helped many struggling families, this program also makes it a SNAP to fraudulently abuse taxpayer dollars. Do a web search for “food stamp fraud,” if you can stomach it.

It gets worse.The past three Farm Bills authorized wasteful energy grants, loans, and subsidies – beyond what the Department of Energy already hands out. Not only are these programs duplicative, but they have the potential to be mini Solyndras. For example, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, from the 2008 Farm Bill, was supposed to cost taxpayers $70 million over five years.  But, in true Washington style, it ended up draining the Treasury of more than $500 million in the first year. This program is supposed to end in 2012. Yet even with its obvious failures and skyrocketing costs, the Senate Farm Bill resurrects this clunker of a program and adds another $174 million in spending. If these alternative energies are to work in the long run, they must rise on their own two feet and stand the test of innovation and free market demand. We cannot constantly nurse these selective programs at the taxpayers’ expense so they keep coming back for more of your money.

It’s clear the Senate trotted down the road to ruin with a Farm Bill that proves to be a home-state, bring-home-the-bacon bill.  It’s clearly not about fiscal sanity or reality. Apart from fostering continued dependence on the federal government, the Senate Farm Bill drastically undermines the fiscal foundations of the U.S. government and ignores our nearly $16 trillion national debt. If the Senate Bill’s actual price tag increases by the same percentage as the 2008 Farm Bill (a likely scenario), then during the next ten years, it would end up costing American taxpayers nearly $1.4 trillion.

The Obama Administration said the Farm Bill should reduce the deficit, and I agree. But, the Senate version of the Farm Bill fails miserably to meet this objective. Senators know what they have done, and are well aware of the projected versus actual costs. Yet, the Senate and the administration continue to push funny math on the American people and cross their fingers that nobody is watching.

A vote for the Senate Farm Bill is a vote to grow the size and reach of the federal bureaucracy, to increase cronyism and dependence on the government, and to raid the Treasury in a manner in which we simply cannot afford. With the bill so far from the core functions and roles of the federal government, such a vote would be philosophically wrong, intellectually dishonest, and politically suicidal. If the Republicans in the House, who won the majority on the basis of limiting the size, scope, and spending of the federal government, vote for anything resembling the Senate version of the Farm Bill, voters should send them home.

Graves ia a member of the House Appropriations Committee.