Waste Watch: What's in the Farm Bill?

Politicians are calling the government farm bill a great bipartisan compromise. It's a 5-year, nearly trillion dollar bill to help the country's farmers and make some program cuts. The president will sign the bill into law Friday.

But at nearly a trillion dollars critics say the farm bill is full of pork. It funds a catfish inspection office tasked to do what the other two catfish inspection offices already do, $100 million to promote the maple syrup industry, and gives $200 million to the market access program, which pays companies to advertise internationally.

"Some of the examples include grape juice in the Far East, a reality show in India, wine to the French - trying to sell American wine to the French," said David Williams of Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

David Williams with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance said at the end of the day politics trumped policy.

"You had Republicans and Democrats, members of the House and members of the Senate who said we really don't care what's in the farm bill. We want to pass it. We want to move on from it. It's 2014. We have re-elections to run."

The farm bill passed though with bipartisan support with supporters warning of price hikes and food shortages without it.

"The farmers and ranchers in this country produce the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world, in the history of the world," said Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Supporters tout the cuts made to the Supplemental Nutritional and Assistance Program also known as food stamps, and the end in direct payments to farmers. Still the majority of that money went to crop insurance, which Scott Faber with the Environmental Working Group says is not the type of insurance you may think.

"These are insurance policies that guarantee that a business, in this case a farm business, gets a certain amount of revenue every year," said Scott Faber.

Faber said it's another example of billions in wasteful spending - having the taxpayer fund two-thirds of a price guarantee for farmers.

"If you simply flip that and say to farmers we'll pay half of the cost of your insurance and you pay two-thirds, if you simply flip it you would save 40 billion dollars over the next ten years," said Faber.

There was one major cut to the final bill, and that was to transparency. While an earlier version of the bill included requirements for members of Congress disclose how much they receive in crop insurance. That disappeared from the final draft. It's a last minute change that hides the amount lawmakers are receiving directly as a result of this bill.

It's certainly no surprise that lobbying groups try to influence how elected leaders vote. This farm bill was no exception. It was the sixth most lobbied bill in all of Washington last year, according to disclosure forms filed by lobbyists themselves.

Elected leaders received some big donations over the least few years from groups lobbying about the farm bill.

CLICK HERE for a full list of members of Congress and the political donations from agri-business groups.
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