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Ed Schafer, Published December 19 2010

Truth in budgeting is crucial to understanding ’08 farm bill

After reading my friend Roger Johnson’s Dec. 12 column in The Forum, “Schafer’s sour grapes paint inaccurate picture of farm bill,” I am worried that he has been in Washington, D.C., too long. Painting an inaccurate picture of true taxpayers’ costs seems to rub off on folks who work in our nation’s capital.

For instance, Johnson says the Congressional Budget Office scored the ’08 farm bill as reducing the deficit. He fails to mention that their new projections based on first-year actual spending now shows an increase of $8 billion. He also states that commodity support programs will cost $9 billion less but doesn’t tell us that is offset by higher-than-expected crop insurance spending of an equal amount.

And he somehow changes the subject to the disaster program, which I didn’t mention as a justification for not increasing the baseline for the next farm bill.

I reiterate, in Sen. Kent Conrad’s, D-N.D., stated “paid for” farm bill, existing farm support programs were not funded in the out years so the CBO scoring would look like it costs less. I don’t think my friend is advocating eliminating these programs, so when the new farm bill is written in 2012, the “hold even” baseline will in fact go up by $9 billion. This means that taxpayers will pay that much more, and politicians will be able to come home and say, “We didn’t increase spending.” One more sham perpetrated on the citizens.

One of the reasons President George W. Bush vetoed the ’08 farm bill is there is just too much pork-barrel spending included. For example, the farm bill advocated by our North Dakota politicians includes tax breaks for horse racing, gimmicks disguising over $10 billion in spending increases, and everything from $1 million to study Mormon crickets,

$19 million to study cow flatulence, $200,000 for fruit fly research in France, $100,000 to study the sex life of the Japanese quail and, unfortunately, much, much more. And, of course, Nancy Pelosi put in millions to pay fishermen not to fish.

Am I the only one seeking truth in budgeting?

Schafer is a former two-term North Dakota governor. He was secretary of agriculture in the George W. Bush administration.