Farm Bill Follies


As is generally known, a new Farm Bill, formally named the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (S. 954), finally passed the Senate by a vote of 66-27 on June 10. This massive legislation is supposed to be renewed every five years, but when it came time in 2012 to do that, it was delayed. The extension currently in effect expires Sept. 30.

And so it is that this key federal legislation for setting US food policy is now being kicked around like a hackie-sack in the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders also are “gauging support in the House for splitting the farm bill in two — the agriculture components and the nutrition section, which includes the food stamp program,” as USA Today online noted.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) does not think there is support for splitting it—nor does he favor that approach. “I think [the] leadership needs to go through that deliberation process and if they do that, they’re likely to come to a similar conclusion that I have,” he was quoted as saying. If House leaders do not split the bill, then House lawmakers could vote on a version of the bill that the House Agriculture Committee passed in May.

They also have the option of making changes to the House version that failed in a recent 195-234 vote; or they could take up the Senate bill. Congress also could extend the current law for another year.

With such facts in mind, take note that House consideration of splitting the bill in that manner could result in an easier arrangement for “the hounds of austerity” to isolate and cut the food-stamp assistance which is now helping a record 48 million Americans survive — as modern neo-liberal capitalism continues raining its “trickle-down” manna upon one and all.

Yet, rather than cutting food stamps — called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — we need to cut through the bull about basic economics, in order to prevent bad changes of any sort from being made, regardless of whether the bill is split or not.

It cannot be stressed too greatly that we all should wish for dissolution of the North American Free Trade Agreement in this 20th year since Democratic President Bill Clinton “went Republican” and signed NAFTA into law. NAFTA’s death would mean a rebirth of the needed protectionism of US industry so that industry and middle-class paychecks could make a huge comeback.

But until that hopefully happens, a critically important thing to recognize is that putting purchasing power in the hands of nearly 50 million Americans via the food stamp program is, by and large, a productive action. Without it, too many things would stay on the shelves.

Think about it. While, yes, what I am taking about is a species of socialism, isn’t it better for the government to provide the liquidity needed to purchase some of our production, instead of continually heaping mega-tons of wasted money on military contractors and the growing US spy state? Cutting the construction of the huge new surveillance facility now being built in Utah gets my vote. Call it the Snowden Proposal.

As economic analyst Dean Malone has shown (see, there is a huge shortfall, or gap, between the nation’s production and the extremely depressed ability for the bulk of the people to purchase what’s produced. He maintains that the US government should restore green-backing—much like the Bradbury Pound in England, around the time of World War I — and just spend sovereign money into circulation interest-free, rather than allowing private banks, with the Federal Reserve at the apex, to commandeer the nation, armed with their interest-bearing “notes” and endless loans which mean debt for all but a tiny plutocratic minority.

The SNAP program — though many argue SNAP recipients should not be allowed to purchase candy, potato chips and other junk food, since it’s supposed to be a “nutrition-assistance” program that helps American farmers — does nevertheless help close that “gap” a little.

It’s not hard to imagine a world without NAFTA and devoid of huge spy facilities, in which adequate SNAP liquidity would supplement an industrial rebound in a relaxed world that no longer obsesses over the trumped-up Muslim menace. The US could even take, say, the Swiss approach of actually practicing the policies of permanent neutrality and peace, and also create money without interest, as noted above.

This outlook, true, seems out of step in the belligerent, Darwinist state that the US has become. But that is no reason not to envision the policies that would lay to rest the scary problems that haunt us and usher in the solutions we so desperately need. If only Congress would consider the big picture.

Mark Anderson is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Texas and Michigan. Email him at

From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2013

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