Thursday, January 17, 2008

The sound of one hand not clapping...

Good heavens, the wheels are slowly coming off the farm bill process, and outside some fairly predictable FB muttering, I sense nobody has their BVD's in a bunch. More to the point, I don't hear an uproar about how absolutely crucial farm payments are to most farmers.

Because they, umm, aren't.

As I had hoped the administration sensed correctly this a political battle with more upside for them with fiscal hawks than downside in farm country. After all, even in farm states there is considerable support for payment limits to the wealthy.

But what really caught Congress off guard was the end of wink-wink budget pretense that certainly wasn't a problem for the Bush administration before now. With the economy plunging downhill, this becomes a huge problem for ag spenders.

More to the point, as I mentioned in my commentary this week on USFR, the unprecedented boom in the ag sector is standing out much more starkly against the backdrop of the rest of the economy with every passing unemployment report. Our subsidies, especially unrestrained by any practical limits or means tests could trigger (after several fruitless tries) the outrage opponents have been trying to generate for years.

Frankly, I doubt if the farm lobby will be forward-thinking enough to cut their possible losses early. The subsidy market is another one we could ride all the way down in denial.

Still, the non-response across farm country to farm bill developments indicates to me that a $25 DCP is not as important to most organizations and legislators seem to think it is. But when you come to think about it, a trivialized farm program empowers farmers and de-powers farm payment patronage and organizational intercessors.

Maybe this could evolve into a true Reformation.

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