Saturday, February 8, 2014

I See They Had The Bull-Throwing Competition At The Rapid City Stock Show Yesterday. Congresswoman Noem Was There Taking Credit For Passing The Farm Bill.

     Haven't seen the trophy, but it must be a hum-dinger.  Honestly, after a two-year long delay in the passage of this Bill, I suppose every elected rep who got the thing through probably deserves a little credit.  Unmentioned, though, is that the overlong delay was basically the result of a Republican faction in the United States House of Representatives that worked hard at stripping away the Food Stamp (known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) component of the Farm Bill and considering it as a separate item. Noem was part of that faction, which was willing stall the passage of the Bill even though the political untenability of their position was obvious from the start, given that it had no chance of clearing the Senate, much less getting signed into law by President Obama.  Noem's reasons for supporting the stalling tactic?  The SNAP program's growth has been accelerating at a fast pace, apparently too fast for Noem's tastes. 
     To me this has always been a bogus proposition.  For one thing, the number of eligible households has increased dramatically since the economy went sour six years ago, and as most people who follow such things know, the job market is still extremely soft, considering the large number of chronically un- and under-employed in the country these days.  A good analysis of the situation can be found in  this 2013 report from the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy and Priorities, which finds that the growth of SNAP closely tracks the growth in the number of poor and near-poor who are eligible for assistance.  The report also concludes that about 98% of the program's expenditures go to eligible recipients, leaving an error rate that includes fraud and overpayments of a bit less than 2%.  I really don't know how that stacks up with other federal programs aimed at giving assistance to the needy, but it certainly isn't high enough to set off the kinds of alarm bells that were sounded by so many Republicans during their drawn out fight to slash the SNAP program by considering it separately from the Farm Bill.
     Now that those Republicans, Noem included, have thrown in the towel on this born loser of a stalling tactic, they seem to be "shining it on" among their constituents and claiming credit for the Farm Bill's passage.  I believe this rates more than a bull-thrower's trophy.  I believe this rates a spot in the Bull-Thrower's Hall of Fame.  Maybe a separate monument to political chutzpah could be erected somewhere in the Washington, D.C., area to commemorate this brazen act of political flim-flammery.  I noticed in her last press release that Noem says the Farm Bill is far from perfect, no doubt kissing up a bit to her right wing colleagues who went down to defeat with her on it.  My question would be to get the Congresswoman to explain what a "perfect" Farm Bill would look like.  I suspect that taking billions of dollars of food assistance away from needy Americans would be a part of that ultra-conservative's fantasy  landscape. 


  1. I also find it interesting that all those "free market" Republicans are expanding the the market distorting heavily subsidized crop insurance program. This just continues to promote mono cropping or corn-bean rotation (actually a colleague of mine calls that a two crop mono-crop) instead of diversified rotations that make more agronomic sense, reduce pesticide use and spread risk.

  2. Farmers could do better at using risk management mechanisms available in the market place but have little incentive to do so when risk is virtually legislated out of their business. I agree that planting decisions could be more market responsive. On the livestock front, it looks like we'll be playing some trade-war gamesmanship with Canada and Mexico now that the cumbersome Country Of Origin Labeling rules are in the Farm Bill. Republicans who've generally been free-traders also caved on this one. SD's Congresswoman Noem was probably so desperate to get a Farm Bill passed this election year that she pretty much assented to anything that looked like it would fly. Appreciate the comment.