The Farm Bill; Occupy the Land

By Russ

The anti-democratic ”Super Committee” is about to take a whack at the Farm Bill. Quietly, this is about to be the first big assault to come out of last summer’s bipartisan deficit terrorist kabuki.

The farm bill is loaded with corporate welfare for big farms, has many small programs nominally dedicated to helping small farms, and contains critical conservation and nutrition programs.

Although there’s been big talk about cutting back on corporate welfare, by far the largest chunk of it (crop insurance) was implicitly declared untouchable from the beginning. Instead, the talk has focused on cutting back on direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, and the ever-popular ”closing loopholes”.

From the point of view of most of the food movement, support for the 2002 and especially the 2008 farm bills were dedicated to the notion that it’s better to support a farm bill with many small helps for small farms even though it remained predominantly a Big Ag welfare trough.

The so-called “mandatory” funding (it doesn’t actually mean mandatory, yet many movement advocates insist on parroting this Orwellism) for these crumbs was never fully funded in practice, and much of what did exist was gutted early in 2011, even prior to the deficit charade.

So prior to the advent of the anti-democratic Super Committee, the reformist gravy-train-and-crumbs game plan was already failing. Now we’re about to see the farm bill, something normally wrangled over at great length in the public eye, subject to the Bush-Obama model of legislative “efficiency”.

Here’s how things work under Obama’s budget Star Chamber. The Agriculture Committee sends a letter to the Super Committee proposing its own cuts. If the SC accepts these, they go back to the full Congress for an up-or-down vote, no silly democratic debate. If the letter is never sent, $15 billion in cuts automatically go into effect. These could not touch the Conservation Reserve Program or food stamps

So this past week the letter was sent, and it calls for $23 billion in cuts:

As we reported earlier, the Agriculture Committee leadership is proposing a net reduction of $23 billion over the next ten years from the farm bill. According to an article by David Rogers at, the structure discussed by the leadership includes at $14 to $15 billion reduction to commodity program payments, a $6.5 billion reduction to conservation programs, and a $4 to $5 billion reduction in nutrition programs including food stamps. Those cuts would translate to a 20+, 10, and less than one percent reduction for commodities, conservation, and nutrition, respectively.

This is worse than the automatic version would have been, since the cuts for corporate ag are just a flesh wound while those for small farms and conservation look to be devastating. As the National Sustainable Agriculture puts it:

Read more at Volatility

6 responses to “The Farm Bill; Occupy the Land

  1. Susan von Struensee

    Do Farm Subsidies Cause Obesity? Dispelling the Myths
    A new report, released this week by Food and Water Watch and the Public Health Institute, subsidies are not making junk food cheaper and more abundant than healthy food – the real culprit is the deregulation of agriculture markets, the failure to enforce anti-trust law and the millions spent on marketing junk food.

    Download the report.

  2. Thanks for adding the photograph, Rady. In theory we could start doing the same thing here.

    • Excellent piece, Russ; thank you. And you are so right on — we need to do this here; in fact some already are squatting, in homes that the banks no longer have valid title to, and by guerrilla gardening

      • I think that’s the way it needs to start here, and as you say people have been doing it for at least a few years now.

        It’s a clear moral calculus and ought to be an easy political one:

        Wall Streets’ illegitimate REO + the landless hungry (an ever-growing number, including more and more formerly of the “middle class”) = an obvious solution: Take the land and farm it.

  3. Russ, can I cross post your article on
    I would have to get your permission and give credit to you as author.

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