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WASHINGTON – U.S. PIRG joined with taxpayer and environmental groups from across the political spectrum to voice shared opposition to much of the Farm Bill being considered by the House of Representatives. The other organizations present included the Environmental Working Group, American Enterprise Institute, R Street Institute, Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Black Farmers Association, and Defenders of Wildlife.
U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate Dan Smith delivered the following remarks:
“The Farm Bill passed by the U.S. Senate is nothing more than a giant handout to the largest, most profitable corporate agribusinesses. And Big Ag does even better under the current House bill. Big agribusiness and their allies in Congress claim the legislation makes real reforms to agricultural subsidies, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Supporters of the Farm Bill point to the elimination of the “Direct Payments” program – long the poster child for wasteful agricultural subsidies, known for handing out checks to rich landowners who don’t even farm. But in a political sleight of hand, the bill plows more than half the taxpayer savings from cutting the Direct Payments program into a new subsidy program that will continue to give handouts to large agribusinesses that don’t need our tax dollars.
“The House bill fails to even include the very minor changes the Senate made to a subsidy program that allows 10,000 farmers to snap up $100,000 each, and some to get over a million.
“Since 1995, just 4 percent of agribusinesses have made off with three quarters of the subsidies. On top of that waste, billions in subsidies actually underwrite the production of junk food additives, at a time when America faces an obesity epidemic. Between 1995 and 2011, U.S. PIRG research found that $18.2 billion subsidized four common junk food additives, including high fructose corn syrup. That’s enough to buy every kid under 18 eight 2-liter bottles of soda every year. By contrast, the subsidies for apples – the only fruit or vegetable that gets significant subsidies – would pay for less than half of an apple for each taxpayer.
“With Congress focused on fixing the budget while continuing to fund public priorities, the last thing our elected leaders should do is continue handing out billions to profitable agribusinesses. Congress needs to make serious changes to the Farm Bill or reject it entirely.”
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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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