The House and Senate Agriculture committees is trying to incorporate its new five-year farm bill into the super committee process.
The current farm bill expires in 2012 and rather than make it a talking point of an election year, the Senate Agriculture committee has allegedly opted to work behind closed doors with the super committee.
“We call it the secret farm bill,” said one environmental activist, in a recent Hill report. Opponents of the lawmaker’s efforts are worried that if the Senate Agriculture committees succeeds, it will prop up U.S. farm payments through 2017.
Environmental groups and what The Hill refers to as “poverty advocates” say the super committee should “dismiss the recommendations from the farm-state lawmakers.”
Opponents believe the lawmaker’s recommendations will try to replace of some existing farm payments with a new “crop insurance program and new payments that would be linked to commodity prices,” writes the Hill.
Although some of the proposals might save billions, opponents of the lawmaker’s initiatives believe the new farm payments could spiral out of control in cost if commodity prices tank.
Furthermore, critics of the farm bill say the legislation is “a symbol of waste that costs taxpayers money while hurting farmers in poor countries who do not receive similar levels of support.”
“They are completely trying to write a whole new farm subsidy program,” a second activist said. “They are making an end-run around people who question these programs.”
“That is the last thing we want, to authorize multi-year programs through this process. I am worried,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said. "Their mission is to cut."
Ben Becker, a spokesman for the Senate Agriculture Committee, defended the effort to propose farm bill changes to the super committee.
“Either the super committee would in essence write the Farm Bill, with no hearings or public input, or the Agriculture Committees and the communities we represent would have a voice. Democrats and Republicans are working hard within the process that’s been imposed on us to develop a sound bipartisan and bicameral recommendation that members of both parties can support,” he said.
But it would seem what most people are unhappy with is the non-transparency that comes with working through the super committee.
“All big legislation is written behind closed doors, but they are doing this is in such a compressed way,“ one longtime agricultural lobbyist said. “I am having trouble finding out what’s going on.”