Saturday, November 17, 2007

We Should not Subsidize Factory Farms

Nor, Try to Save Family Farms

Congress is again debating a Farm Bill, or as the Wall Street Journal calls it, the No Farmer left Behind Bill. While there is something in it for everyone, the big farmer however, gets the most with two-thirds of the aid going to the wealthiest 10% of farms. With the average full-time farmer having an income of $81,420 last year, don’t think of the Farm bill as help to the depression-era subsistence farmer.

So why do we subsidize farmers?

We, the consumer get cheaper food, right? Well, no, not exactly. The farm price supports are actually designed to keep food prices high. So in addition to the taxes we pay to subsidize farmers, we collectively pay about $12 billion more a year for food than we otherwise would.

Well, we are preserving a way of life? We are keeping the family farm alive? Well, to a certain extend, you could argue that some family farmers benefit from the bill. I think protecting the Family Farm however is the job of Willie Nelson, not the tax payers. (See Farm Aid) Why should this segment of the population get protection from the demands of the market place? Year by year, farm productivity increases; it takes fewer people to produce more food. Why try to keep them on the farm? Why should I pay more taxes so some kid in the country can grow up milking a cow? We don’t preserve the life-style of the buggy whip maker or the Ma and Pa grocery store owner, so why farmers?

Farm aid helps provide a rich variety of farm produce? There is something in the bill for everyone, so there are subsidies for vegetable, fruit and nut growers, but 80% of the money goes to subsidize five commercial crops: corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat. Have you ever noticed that corn syrup is in almost every product you buy? Read your product labels. From dog food to Wheat Thins to peanut butter, many products contain corn syrup. It is hard to find a product without it. Peanut butter does not need corn syrup. With an obesity problem in America, we don’t need to be adding calories to everything we consume, yet we subsidize the production of corn, so there is a surplus of cheap corn syrup.

Well, we produce a lot of surplus food and help feed the hungry of the world? America does provide a lot of commodities to foreign countries. (Food for Peace) However, if would be less costly to directly fund aid agencies and let the agencies purchase the food in the market place. And while we are generous with our surplus food, some of the food aid we provide is sold by aid agencies, which undermines the farmers in the country we are tying to help and keeps the country from becoming self sufficient. (See, As U.S. Food Dollars Buy Less…) Also, by subsidizing American farmers we are putting the farmers of all poor third-world countries at a disadvantage. Our farm policy is protectionism for American agriculture which actually contributes to world poverty.

The farm bill taxes us to make food cost more, to enrich the already rich factory farmer, to keep some family farmers on the farm when the marketplace says they are not needed, to make third world peasant farmers poorer, to produce and abundance of corn syrup we don’t need, and to undermine America’s leadership on Free Trade. So why do we subsidize farmers? It is politics. As Rep. Sanford Bishop, a Georgia Democrat who refers to himself as "the peanut congressman," said recently, "That's what politics is: Who gets what, when and how," (See, Farm Aid Pork) Earlier this year he amended an Iraq appropriations bill to include $74 million for storage of peanuts. He said he would have done it even if peanut growers had not given his most recent reelection campaign $35,750.

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