by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Major food stamp reform is a must in the farm bill. So too is major reform for farm subsidies–after all, it is called the farm bill.
Much of the focus, though, has been on food stamp reform, including from conservatives.
How would it look though if conservatives reform the food stamp safety net and as a result improve the well-being of the poor by reducing dependence on government, yet at the same time they expand the farm safety net and increase dependence on government?
This appears to be a real possibility. And, obviously, it would look really bad. One can easily imagine the liberal talking points now, asserting that conservatives hate the poor and love the rich.
These talking points regarding the poor would be way off. But, at least in the farm bill context, it would be tough to argue the claim about the rich given that most subsidies go to farm households that have much greater income and wealth than non-farm households (there is a reverse Robin Hood effect).
For example, imagine trying to defend not reforming subsidies to large family farms. According to United States Department of Agriculture data, large family farms, which received 32 percent of commodity payments and 34 percent of crop insurance indemnities in 2016, had a median household income of $347,000 (about six times the median income for all U.S. households) and median household net worth of $3.8 million (about 39 times the median wealth for all U.S. households).