Soaring prices for corn, wheat and other agricultural commodities aren't just contributing to inflation, they're increasing hunger and misery among the poor. Confronted with a chance to help, Congress is instead on a path to boost corporate welfare for wealthy farmers.
There is much to dislike in the most recent farm bill, the five-year plan for agricultural subsidies and food stamps, but there's something to like as well. The House version would increase spending on nutrition programs -- mostly meaning food stamps but also including emergency domestic food aid and school lunch assistance -- by $11.5 billion over 10 years. That is a desperately needed life preserver for the indigent. Yet as the House and Senate struggle to reconcile their separate bills, they've hit a serious roadblock. They're about $10 billion over their spending limit, prompting a veto threat from President Bush. That puts the gains for food stamps in serious danger.
For what it's worth, Bush is dead right. Congress is relying on accounting shenanigans to make the farm bill's numbers pencil out, and the bill continues to give outrageous handouts to millionaire farmers at a time when farm income is skyrocketing. The 2002 farm bill should have expired in October, but it has been repeatedly extended as Congress tries to break the impasse; the latest deadline is April 18.