A Tea Party candidate in Louisiana who has repeatedly decried the “outrageous debt” contained in the farm bill has himself taken thousands of dollars in farm subsidies from that same bill.
Rob Maness, a former Air Force officer hoping to take on Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) next year, has repeatedly blasted what he sees as unnecessary excess in the farm bill, legislation that provides subsidies to farmers and food stamps for low-income Americans.
When the House previously voted down a farm bill that contained some, but significantly reduced, funding for food stamps, Maness praised the defeat, calling the legislation a “Leviathan.” The farm bill has been held up in Congress after a Tea Party-led backlash in the House of Representatives led Republicans to remove the food stamp program from the farm bill and then insist in dramatic cuts.
“We owe it to our farmers to pass a bill that addresses their needs – not holds them hostage to welfare programs or puts outrageous debt on the backs of them and their children,” Maness said in a statement. He also argued that farm subsidies “are prone to corruption, waste, fraud and abuse” and should be phased out.
Yet, despite his opposition to farm subsidies, a ThinkProgress investigation has found that Maness has been all too willing to accept thousands in subsidies for his own farm.
Between 2007 and 2012, Maness took $4,958 in commodity subsidies for his farm in Madisonville, Louisiana, the 14th largest sum of any farmer in the town.
In an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Maness argued that “Without a true free market system, for most small, family farmers, a government subsidy is the difference between a profit and a loss, and being able to provide for your family and plant next year’s crop.” However, in his financial disclosure, Maness declared $18,909 in income from his farm in 2012 alone, more than triple the amount he received in subsidies.
Maness valued his farm between $500,001 and $1,000,000 in his personal financial disclosure earlier this year.
While opponents say there is widespread fraud and waste in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps, farm subsidies are much more problematic. There were no major overpayments in food stamps last year but $17 million such payments for farms. Crop insurance has an erroneous payment rate of 4.7 percent, while food stamps has a rate of 3.8. The food stamp fraud rate is just 1 percent.
Maness has received increased attention in his Senate bid after being endorsed by a powerful outside spending group, the Senate Conservatives Fund, last week. He is vying against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for the Republican nomination.
Despite his willingness to accept farm subsidies, Maness insisted on his website that “we need policies that encourage free market growth” and rails against “crony capitalism.”
“The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers,” Maness wrote.