Maybe this is a time when Washington pork really is pork.
This week, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s agriculture commissioner, Gene Hugoson, and his Iowa counterpart, Bill Northey (Democrat), are asking that federal funds be used to buy pork, and then direct it to federal food programs, according to the Associated Press.
What’s the problem? Swine flu has scared people from pork, even though it has nothing to do with the meat, and the name has since been changed to the H1N1 flu. The recession also has people eating less meat.
Like the big automakers, there’s also the comparative inefficiency of small farms. “Producers that aren’t efficient will be hit first,” Shane Ellis, a livestock economist at Iowa State University in Ames said. “Those are the operators that we will see exit the market. Not the big operators.” And farmers are raising more hogs than the consumer demand requires.
Republican opposition to federal spending and intervention in private business tends to soften when things turn tough for farmers — a traditional Republican constituency. But is there a difference between an autoworker and a hog farmer? On scale, there’s a big difference. But what about philosophy?
Consider Gov. Pawlenty’s view of the government intervening in the banking and auto industries. “It’s headed in the wrong direction in terms of government micromanaging or intervening, and, worse yet, funding and subsidizing and taking over entire parts of our economy,” he said earlier this month.
When should the market prevail? And when should the government step in?