When it comes to picking taxpayer pockets, no one -- not the trial lawyers or even AARP -- has it over the farm lobby. How's this for clout? Though last year was one of the best ever for farm incomes -- up 50% to $88.7 billion (according to USDA, see chart above) -- farmers are about to score the most lavish subsidies in American history.
The House and Senate are now ironing out differences between their bills, and it's all but certain that farmers will get about $26 billion over the next five years in subsidies. Soybean and wheat farmers are slated to receive higher price supports, though bean prices hit a 34-year high last year and wheat prices have soared to a new record (see chart above).
Corn producers will get subsidies of $10.5 billion over five years, which is on top of the deal of a lifetime these farmers were handed when Congress expanded ethanol subsidies. The handouts make growing corn so profitable that last year some 15.3 million acres were converted to new corn production, according to the USDA. That has a cascading effect on other prices, as farmers convert bean acreage to more lucrative corn fields and feed prices for meat producers climb.
Reminds me of the old joke:
Q: How do you starve a farmer?
A: Weld his mailbox shut.