WASHINGTON D.C. – In a speech delivered on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Mike Lee blasted the Agriculture Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, originating from H.R. 2642: Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, which reached the Senate after a House Conference Report on the bill was approved 251-166, with 14 not voting, in the House of Representatives on Jan. 29.
The senator said the FARM Bill is a “beltway marriage of convenience between welfare and corporate welfare,” and criticized the use of PILT payments, critical funding for Utah’s small rural communities, as political football.
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“This Farm Bill is a monument to every dysfunction Washington indulges to bend our politics and twist our economy to benefit itself at the expense of the American people,” Lee said. He added that the FARM Bill is “collusion between both parties against the American people; it benefits the special interests at the expense of the national interest.”
Lee outlined several offensive provisions included in the bill, such as sugar industry subsidies and the Christmas-tree tax, but reserved his greatest criticism for holding PILT payments hostage in order to facilitate passage of this deeply flawed legislation. Lee called it a “bullying, disenfranchising shake-down of the American West.”
“To compensate local governments for the tax revenue Washington unfairly denies them, Congress created – as only Congress could – the PILT program, which stands for Payment In Lieu of Taxes,” Lee said. “Under PILT, Congress sends a few cents on the dollar out west every year to make up for lost property taxes. There is no guaranteed amount. Washington just sends what it feels like.”
Read Lee’s speech on the importance of PILT payments to rural communities here.
“I have been on the phone with county commissioners for weeks, who feel they have no choice but to support a policy they know doesn’t work,” Lee said. “This bill takes away their ability to plan and budget with certainty, and forces them to come back to Congress, hat in hand, every year. County commissioners know this is no way to run a community. I share their frustration, and I applaud their commitment to their neighbors and communities.”
The best way to help the small rural communities that depend on PILT payments is to make the program permanent, Lee said, rather than forcing Congress to authorize it each year.
“I’m convinced that in the long run, the best way to protect these communities is to find a real, permanent solution that gives them the certainty and equality they deserve. My vote against the FARM Bill will be a vote to rescue Utahns from second-class citizenship, and local communities in my state from permanent dependence on the whims of faraway politicians.”
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