Statement on Farm Bill and agricultural policy reform from Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
“At Taxpayers for Common Sense we believe that lasting, meaningful reform happens only when you have a representative process that is respectful of differences, and with real give and take. That is certainly true for the farm bill. Which is why we’re grateful to Representative Blumenauer for pulling together this conversation.
The so-called ag safety net is broken. It is an expensive, complex web of confusing programs that does not serve the majority of farmers and ranchers, let alone consumers, downstream communities, or taxpayers footing the bill. 72 percent of farm households receive nothing from the nearly $20 billion a year we spend in farm safety net and conservation programs. Subsidized crop insurance and redundant commodity programs tilt the scale towards particular crops, business structures, and regions. The result stifles innovation, encourages consolidation, and creates barriers for young and beginning farmers, those who want to innovate – even those who are efficient.
To fix this broken system, we need to hear from more than the small group of power players currently in the game. We need to hear from the three-fourths of all farmers and ranchers who receive nothing from the current programs. We need to ask tough questions about what we are getting for the billions taxpayers are spending.
What return are we getting on our investments? Are our safety nets – based on policy passed in smoke-filled backrooms – counterproductive, perhaps even increasing risks for farmers? Are they pushing us to grow too much of what we don’t need rather than more of what the market is demanding? How can we improve Washington to better serve all of agriculture, consumers, and taxpayers?
There is no time like the present to figure out a new path forward. The days of record crop prices and record incomes are likely gone. With the national debt approaching $20 trillion and annual deficits on the rise, we can’t afford business as usual. We can’t afford to shower favored businesses with cash, hoping things will turn around. We need a cost-effective, transparent safety net that doesn’t pick winners and losers, doesn’t distort markets, responds to current needs, and in which all are held accountable for producing results.
But for that we need dialogue. The kind that doesn’t start and end in DC. The kind Mr. Blumenauer has done in Oregon. Dialogue that will help us work towards a better, broader, but shallower safety net that encourages modernization, innovation, diversification, and works for everyone. Now is the time to reform the farm bill.”
— Ryan Alexander, president