Farm Bill 2013: Corporate Welfare on Steroids

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If you're like most Americans, you probably think the primary purpose of the Farm Bill up for congressional authorization this year is to help farmers.

Of course, when it comes to the ways of Washington, nothing is ever that simple.

The 2013 edition of the Farm Bill, which is the main federal legislation for setting U.S. food policy, passed the Senate last week and now moves on to the House.

First crafted during the Great Depression to help struggling farmers, the Farm Bill is renewed and modified every five years. Congress was supposed to renew it last year, but instead merely extended it in deference to the 2012 election.

This year's Farm Bill calls for spending of $955 billion over 10 years and is 1,150 pages long.

And yes, some of that nearly $1 trillion does go to programs that help farmers. But not much of it.

Nearly 80% goes to fund the food stamp program, otherwise known by the more politically correct name of "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" (SNAP) it was given in 2008.

Yet what's most appalling about Farm Bill 2013 is how much it benefits dozens of large U.S. corporations, such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT), Monsanto Co. (NYSE: MON), Kraft Foods Group Inc. (Nasdaq: KRFT) and Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN).

Back in 2008, $173.5 million was spent on lobbying that year's farm bill, most of it by corporations eager to ensure that their subsidy gravy train wouldn't get derailed.

It was the second-most lobbying money ever spent on any U.S. legislation, falling short only of the $250 million spent on Dodd-Frank.

That kind of money buys top-of-the-line lobbying power.

"On the [2008] Farm Bill, special interests hired an army of well-connected lobbyists to press their case with Congress, including 45 former members of Congress, [and] at least 461 former congressional and executive branch staffers (including 86 that worked for former agriculture committee members or the U.S. Department of Agriculture)," noted a report on Farm Bill lobbying by Food & Water Watch.

It's little wonder that Farm Bills are chock full of corporate welfare.

Digging into Farm Bill 2013 — Where the SNAP Money Ends Up

While most Americans who receive SNAP benefits need them to get by, most of that money ends up in the hands of big, profitable corporations.

The Farm Bill 2013 allocates $760.5 billion to the food stamp program, and many corporations have gone to great lengths over the years to ensure their share of that pie is as large as possible.

One of the best examples is the soda industry. The Center for Science in the Public Interest estimated that $4 billion in SNAP money was spent on soda purchases in 2010 (this despite that the primary purpose of SNAP is to make sure low-income people can purchase nutritious food).

That's a significant incentive. And sure enough, two All-American companies – Coca Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) and Pepsi Co, Inc. (NYSE: PEP) — helped get soda eligible for food stamps back in 1964, and continue to spend large sums on making sure it stays that way.

Back in 2008, Coca-Cola spent $513,000 lobbying the Farm Bill; Pepsi spent $437,000.

The fight to keep snacks and sodas on the list of SNAP eligibility is a running battle, and big corporations are definitely winning.

Join the conversation. Click here to jump to comments…

  1. Mith Radates | June 18, 2013

    The vested interest vampires are so dependent on sucking the public's blood that it will take a heart-stake of a major collapse to pry them loose. Understandable, but shameful.

    • H. Craig Bradley | June 21, 2013

      FINANCIAL COLLAPSE LIKELY MEANS POPULATION COLLAPSE, ROMAN STYLE

      The real problem with people who want to see the existing financial and monetary system we have collapse so much ( you and all the readers here) is there won't be much left over to worry about anymore afterwards, so nobody will be reading about financial assets or money anymore. Instead, it will all be survival mode. (Preppers must love this one).

      Instead, people will need advice on how to grow (and protect) their "backyard" gardens, since you still have to eat- even if your accounts, the U.S. Dollar, and the local banks are toast). Many will die or become the "walking dead" because there won't be enough food raised at home in the cities to support the existing human populations. Gold bugs, try eating your Kugerrands. Instead, better stock-up on viable vegetable seeds

  2. Tony Costa | June 20, 2013

    Time to end this for good.

  3. robert | June 20, 2013

    Back in the late thirties, my dad was amazed that the government would pay him to not plant corn on land that wouldn't grow corn anyway.
    I have been amazed at the foolishment of our goverment ever since.

  4. H. Craig Bradley | June 21, 2013

    "SNAP", ITS FRAUD

    Reportedly, dishonest food stamp receipients (not honest?) have been seen going to unscrupulous retailers in Las Vegas, Nevada and getting cash, which then goes into slot machines, hoping for a big payoff. Cah-ching, cah-ching. Did the gambling industry lobby for the new far bill too? ( Once you have a EBT card, there is very little enforcement or follow-up).

    Its quite strange, because all your transactions can be instantly monitored and therefore, audited ( heck, the NSA & IRS already are doing this with your personal debit or credit card use anyway). The Federal government apparently wants more new (revenue) money to help offset the new EBT claimants.

  5. John W. Costanzo | August 27, 2013

    $760.5 billion goes into the Food Stamp Program?!!!! This article is a load of fiction!!! Only $74.6 billion was distributed as food stamps in 2012 in the USA. This article is by right wing ideologues who are doing their master's work of spreading untrue propaganda so they can feel good about themselves in trying to steal money allocated for the poor. Sorry, your misinformation will no longer work. Society has gotten too smart for you thieves. Go here to see what is paid into the US Food Stamp program and all of it's inner workings:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supplemental_Nutrition_Assistance_Program
    All of the $74.6 billion goes into corporate revenue streams anyway–15% ending up as corporate profits. The poor are hardly living "High on the hog" on food stamps–but, big food corporation fatcats are.

    • David Zeiler | August 27, 2013

      You ire is somewhat misplaced. The figure of $760.5 billion, taken from the Washington Post, describes 10 years of spending. So it doesn't contradict the actual figure of $74.6 billion in food stamps distributed in 2012 — one year's worth.

      As for your final point, the fact that corporations end up with much of the money intended for poor families is the main thrust of the article. Not sure why you see it as right-wing propaganda. I even used Mother Jones as a source! :-)

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