On Monday evening, CBS was the only network to report on hidden subsidies in the new farm bill and give voice to a government spending watchdog. NBC and ABC both ignored the story.
CBS's Sharyl Attkisson listed hidden taxes or spending increases in the bill which included "a new 15-cent fee on every live-cut Christmas tree sold to create a board to promote Christmas trees."
CBS featured Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste who called the bill "a disaster for taxpayers" and "a boon for special interests." Attkisson pointed out that the bill is "50 percent more expensive" than the 2008 farm bill.
And Attkisson reported the bill's $200 million spending increase for advertising for Big Agriculture: "The new bill hikes spending to $200 million a year for an advertising program that promotes giant agriculture companies and industries."
Below is a transcript of the CBS segment:
[6:41 p.m. EST]
SCOTT PELLEY: Speaking of farms, this evening the U.S. Senate cleared the massive farm bill for a vote. It would spend a trillion dollars over ten years. 80 percent of the bill is food stamps, and much of the rest is subsidies for farmers and crop insurance. But our Sharyl Attkisson has been investigating, and she's found quite a few surprises tucked in among the trillion.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: The farm bill creates a new 15-cent fee on every live-cut Christmas tree sold to create a board to promote Christmas trees. That's just one of the provisions that has angered watchdogs like Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste.
TOM SCHATZ, Citizens Against Government Waste: The farm bill is a disaster for taxpayers, it's a boon for the special interests.
ATTKISSON: The new bill hikes spending to $200 million a year for an advertising program that promotes giant agriculture companies and industries. Under the same program last year, Welch food got $844,000 tax dollars to pitch grape juice overseas. Sunkist, the largest food and vegetable marketing co-op in the world, got $1.8 million. Funding will be renewed for a fundamental catfish import inspection office. 11 taxpayer watchdog groups lost their fight to eliminate it as unnecessary because there's also one at the Food and Drug Administration.
SCHATZ: There will continue to be duplicative and overlapping inspection of catfish costing taxpayers $170 million over the next ten years.
ATKISSON: Both parties insist the farm bill is an improvement because it cuts down on waste and abuse, and repeals outdated programs. It consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13. North Dakota democrat Heidi Heitkamp.
Sen. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D-N.D.): It makes critical reforms to target resources where they are most needed while also giving farmers the opportunity to thrive.
SHARYL ATTKISSON, CBS News investigative correspondent: The farm bill is passed only once every five years. Congress says this one saves money, but it's 50 percent more expensive than the one from 2008. Scott, there's little doubt it will pass in a final vote tomorrow.
PELLEY: And the President says he'll sign it. Sharyl, thanks very much.