February 2, 2014
Every five years, Congress takes a holiday from the principles that made this country great and turns to central planning policies that were in vogue in 1933. This nightmare holiday is the farm bill.
Right on cue, the current Republican-led House passed a nearly $1 trillion farm bill Wednesday that puts faith in Washington and disrespects the farmers and ranchers who actually make agriculture the booming industry that it is today. The policies put forward are just a continuation of the status quo, or worse, and an important procedural step to separate food stamps from farm programs inexcusably may not happen.
Real reforms in any negotiated bill are unlikely because of the substance of both the House and Senate bills. These bills maintain the central planning policies and government handouts that have characterized agricultural policy for too long now.
No program captures the farm bill’s central planning better than the sugar program. The program controls supplies by limiting how much sugar that processors can sell each year and by import restrictions that reduce the amount of imports. This has led to domestic sugar prices that have generally been at least double world prices for decades.
In any other context, most legislators would find such government interference in the marketplace to be shocking. If there were a proposal for the government to control the candy supply to help candy companies, such a proposal would rightfully be mocked. Yet, even some legislators who claim to be in favor of free markets have turned a blind eye to the centrally planned programs in the farm bills.