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The Death of the Farm Bill

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DUNCAN of Tennessee. Mr. Speaker, last week the 1,200 page farm bill was defeated. I'm told that the Senate's immigration bill is now 1,922 pages.

The previous Speaker of this body, the gentlelady from California (Ms. Pelosi), famously said that we would have to pass the very misnamed Affordable Care Act, we would have to pass it before we could figure out or find out what was in it.

The last issue of the Weekly Standard magazine includes an article entitled, ``Our Masters, the Bureaucrats.'' The article says that today there's only one Member of Congress for each 5,150 Federal bureaucrats and says that this bureaucracy is ``too insulated from the people.''

This gigantic bureaucracy has produced so many laws, rules, and regulations that they have not even designed a computer that could keep up with all of them, much less a human being.

Almost everyone has violated a Federal law at some point, especially a tax law. An innocent mistake is not supposed to be criminal, but a zealous prosecutor can make almost anything criminal.

A few days ago, a woman who described herself as a progressive or liberal Democrat and, thus, would favor all these regulations testified in one of my committees and said, ``at the time each rule was created, it made sense; but over time, the accretion, or accumulation, of rules and regulations ends up costing us money and frustrating the public.''

Our Federal Government has grown so big that it is now almost completely out of control, and the people are suffering because of it. Jobs are killed, small businesses go under, and on and on and on.

I started this morning by mentioning the farm bill, so complicated that cost estimates ranged all the way from $500 billion to $1 trillion. We didn't even know how much it was going to cost.

Everyone respects and appreciates farmers. We must help small farmers as much as we can. Small farmers are important for our quality of life and our economy.

However, one part of the bill that I want to discuss here briefly this morning is the subsidy for crop insurance.

Every other business in this country, small or large, pays 100 percent of their insurance on their own.

These businesses do not expect or request subsidized Federal insurance. Right now, Federal taxpayers are paying for two-thirds of farmers' subsidies in Federal crop insurance. Most of these subsidies go to the biggest giants in agriculture. These subsidies also primarily benefit a very few multinational insurance companies. The biggest crop insurer is Wells Fargo. And several of these crop insurance giants are operated by foreign companies based in places like the Bahamas, Japan, and Switzerland. That's who the U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing.

I'm not advocating doing away with the entire crop insurance program. However, the excessive amount of this subsidy just last year cost taxpayers $6 billion and was one of several reasons the farm bill went down to defeat. Actually, the farm bill should more accurately be called the food stamp bill. I think 20 percent of it dealt with farmers and 80 percent for food.

But I did offer an amendment to the farm bill to eliminate premium subsidies from being paid on any Federal crop insurance policy with what is known as the harvest price option. Under the harvest price option, if the price of the covered crop increases between planting and harvest, the farmer's revenue guarantee is recalculated, using the higher harvest price. In other words, giving the farmer more money--sometimes, significantly more money--than he expected when he first planted the crop. As a result, harvest price options can cause a farmer to receive
much more revenue than was guaranteed at planting.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, my amendment would have saved at least $7.7 billion over the next 10 years, and possibly even much more in years with a severe drought, such as the $6 billion last year. This amendment was endorsed by the Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union, Heritage Action, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and a slew of other fiscally conservative organizations, as well as the Environmental Working Group.

Professor Bruce Babcock, a professor from Iowa State University who helped invent revenue coverage in the mid-1990s, has said:

Crop insurance is not an insurance program. It's a social program.

And, he says, because of how American agriculture works, it's a social program that helps the biggest agribusinesses the most.

My amendment even got a tacit enforcement from the Farm Bureau because they realized this subsidy has now become too lucrative and too excessive. But the agribusiness lobby was afraid of my amendment and kept it from even being presented on the floor because they were almost certain it would pass.

Mr. Speaker, we have to make changes in the future so too much tax money will not go to Cadillac crop insurance programs.

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