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Where in the Constitution is the Trillion-Dollar Farm Bill?

By Harold Pease PH. D

By now everyone should have heard of the recently passed five-year Farm Bill costing nearly one trillion dollars, over ten years—a 50% increase over the last one. The 959-page document included the following items considered pork by critics: “$2 million for sheep production and marketing, $10 million for Christmas tree promotion, $170 million for catfish oversight, $119 million for peanut crop insurance, $100 million for organic food research, $150 million to promote farmers markets, $3.3 billion for a cotton income protection plan, $12 million for a “wool research and promotion” program, and $100 million to promote the maple syrup industry. Ironically the 949-page bill spends about $1 billion dollars per page ($956 Billion Farm Bill Loaded with Pork, Your World Cavuto). The Department of Agriculture will also be establishing new federal standards for “the identity of honey.”

Two serious problems from this action exist. First, how does this pork bestowal to a favored few stop the three billion dollar a day bleed to the national debt, now exceeding $17 trillion? It doesn’t even pretend to try. Yes, we over-spend by three billion dollars a day. This growth is our biggest national threat.

Second, where in the Constitution is the trillion-dollar Farm Bill? How did something specifically prohibited on the federal level become constitutional? The Founders clearly saw agriculture as a state or local jurisdiction not a federal one. Alexander Hamilton, credited with having made the strongest statement with respect to agriculture’s exclusion from federal jurisdiction, wrote in The Federalist #17: “the supervision of agriculture and of other concerns of a similar nature, all those things, in short, which are proper to be provided for by local legislation can never be desirable cases of a general jurisdiction.” Any “lust of dominion” in this area by the federal government, he reasoned, the states “would control the indulgence of so extravagant an appetite”(See Clinton Rossiter, p.118-119). They didn’t.

Ironically some $756 billion of this $950 billion mega spending bill through 2023 is not for farm programs, as inferred by the name, but for food stamps for a third of the population. It emerges as a perfect blend of corporate welfare, largely for the rich giant agri-businesses’ farmers, insuring them from all risks, and welfare for the poor —both portions of the population feeding off the middle class. Boiled down it consists of an enlarged crop insurance program where the federal government subsidizes losses from poor yields or low commodity prices.

But does the Constitution allow either type of welfare, for the rich or for the poor, on the federal level? No!! The Founders gave the federal government only four areas of power: taxes, paying the debts, providing for the general welfare (that’s not the same as providing the general welfare), and providing for the common defense. That is it. All four powers are identified before the first semi colon. The clauses, which follow, are simply qualifiers of these four.

The Founders did not dare leave the phrase “general welfare” for future power grabbers, as they could be counted on to enlarge there authority by defining everything as general welfare. They understood that it is the nature of all governments to grow. As a result, clauses 2-9 list 14 powers that comprise “general welfare.” Five deal with borrowing money, regulating its value, and dealing with counterfeiting. The other nine powers include naturalization, bankruptcies, establishing post offices, protecting inventors and authors, establishing “tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court” and “regulating commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.”

One, not well informed, might argue, what about the last part of the sentence giving Congress authority to do whatever is “necessary and proper?” They must read the wording that next follows: “for carrying into execution the forgoing powers.” Article I, Section 8 defines general welfare as 14 specific types of authority so that the federal government could not grow their power at the expense of state, local, and individual authority. If they had meant for Congress to legislate anything that they felt necessary they would have said so in one sentence. Neither handouts to the poor, or to the rich, are on this list and not thereafter added by way of amendment and thus both are unconstitutional. More especially is that so for agriculture specifically discussed as having been omitted.

The trillion dollar Farm Bill is no where in the Constitution yet the leadership of both parties voted for it demonstrating once again that the leadership of neither party protects the Constitution as first priority. Until that happens we will continue our blood letting national debt and accompanying loss of liberty.