Floor Statement - H.R. 1947, The Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act
Chairman of the Committee on the Budget Paul Ryan of Wisconsin
I want to thank Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson for their work on this bill. There are some good ideas in here, and we should act on them. But I have some serious concerns with the bill. On balance, I’m afraid the bad parts outweigh the good. And so I must vote against it.
Here’s what this bill gets right: In some areas, it cuts wasteful spending. It eliminates direct payments. It adjusts the food-stamp program. And it consolidates duplicative programs. I want to commend the chairman and the members of the Agriculture Committee for proposing these reforms. My concern is they don’t go far enough.
And in other areas, this bill increases spending. For instance, it creates new farm-support programs, such as the Price Loss Coverage and the Revenue Loss Coverage programs. Overall, the bill’s changes to farm-support programs are supposed to save money for taxpayers, but under certain economic conditions, they could actually cost more. And there’s another problem: This bill expands crop insurance at a time of record debt for our nation—and record profits for the agriculture sector.
Now, we should have a safety net for our farmers. We should help the little guy—the family farm that’s in need. We shouldn’t bankroll the big guys. But that’s what this bill does. It loosens eligibility standards for crop subsidies—and increases the number of people who can apply. In fact, they may not even be farmers. Under this bill, someone could make up to $950,000 a year in a nonrelated industry—and still receive subsidies. Over 6,000 people who are losing money on the farm—but who are making plenty of money elsewhere—would become eligible.
Finally, I have concerns with the food-stamp program. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has grown at an annualized rate of 12.5 percent over the past ten years. It will cost about $80 billion just this year. And though the program’s costs will fall over the next ten years, they will remain at elevated levels—much higher than they should be. The fact is, we need to reform this program—and we need to encourage work. The 1996 welfare-reform law brought millions of children out of poverty. By strengthening work requirements in SNAP, we can build on the bipartisan work started in the 1990s and reduce poverty. This farm bill is a missed opportunity. Despite making modest changes, the legislation doesn’t pursue real reform.
I want to commend Chairman Lucas for bringing good ideas to the table. But I’m afraid this bill has serious flaws, and therefore I must vote no.