Though we were cheered earlier this week by the prospect of a new farm bill passing that could, among other things, curtail the wasteful $5 billion a year direct cash subsidy program to farmers, it appears that the agriculture lobby has figured out creative new ways to keep getting its government handouts: price floor guarantees. The Wall Street Journal has the story:
The federal subsidy in the House bill guarantees farmers of Japonica Rice that if market prices drop below 115% of the average price of all types of rice, they will get a government payment to make up the difference. Japonica is the formal name for medium- and short-grain rice strains commonly called sticky rice.The move shines a light on guarantees against drops in commodity prices that are in some ways replacing the much-maligned direct payments to farmers Congress is seeking to end. Subsidies for products such as corn, wheat and cotton cost taxpayers about $5 billion a year. Rice growers have received a total of more than $2.6 billion in subsidies since 1995, according to the Environmental Working Group, a liberal advocacy group that is tracking government spending on the agriculture industry.
An unflattering detail in the story: the provision was strongly backed by Freshman Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a fourth-generation Japonica rice farmer. Polls show only ten percent of Americans trust congress. Look no further than stories like these for reasons why that might be the case.Liberals and conservatives ought to unite to kill corporate pork like this. Whether you believe in big government or small government, you should fight waste wherever you see it. Price guarantees to the sticky rice growers, though protecting America’s strategically vital sushi supply against the danger of depending on imported sticky rice, can surely be cut as the country struggles to provide necessary services at a price we can afford.[Sticky rice photo courtesy Shutterstock]