ny times says cut
Here’s a Great Place to Cut from NY Times
It seems hard to believe, but the federal farm subsidy program — wasteful, inefficient and virtually indestructible — may at last be headed for serious downsizing.
Our hopes have been dashed before, most recently when the farm lobby and its Congressional patrons shredded admirable reforms proposed by President George W. Bush. Now an alliance of conservative Republicans eager to cut the deficit and liberal Democrats opposed to corporate welfare is seeking ways to trim the subsidies.
The farm program has evolved from a New Deal safety net for Depression-era farmers into a $15 billion-a-year goody-bag of direct payments, disaster insurance programs, low-cost loans and other subsidies — with a smaller investment in conservation programs.
The most indefensible are $5 billion a year in direct payments, which flow to farmers in good times and bad and are awarded disproportionately to the growers of big row crops like corn, soybeans and wheat. “If we can’t figure out a way at this point to trim these payments, then it is just embarrassing,” said Representative Ron Kind, a Democratic from Wisconsin who has long fought farm subsidies. The bigger news is that another Wisconsin legislator, Representative Paul Ryan — the Republicans’ leading champion of budget-cutting — agrees with him.
Mr. Ryan’s budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year would take $30 billion from the farm program over the next decade, mainly from direct payments. He would apply the savings to deficit reduction. A better idea would be to use some for that purpose and some for conservation programs, to encourage farmers to protect sensitive open space or remove it from production.
In the Senate, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Richard Durbin of Illinois have both told their local farm bureaus to expect cuts. Even more surprising, and equally welcome, is the news that the cherished 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy for corn ethanol may also be endangered. The subsidy costs the Treasury more than $5 billion in foregone revenues; the Government Accountability Office has said that ethanol can flourish without it. It is as superfluous as the direct payments program. Both need to go.