Should farms continue to receive federal subsidies?

The Senate last week passed a five-year farm bill that would eliminate most direct farm subsidies in favor of expanded crop insurance. Advocates said the changes were necessary to help reduce the deficit. The House is expected to begin work on its own version in a couple of weeks. Today’s Question: Should farms continue to receive federal subsidies?

  • Rich

    I’m going to personally lobby for a dry cleaner’s bill, to subsidize dry cleaners.

    And then, once subsidized, I’m gonna open one. ;^)

  • reggie

    Setting aside any arguments about whether or not we are subsidizing crops that become unhealthy food products, poor land use practices, excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, limited crop rotations, or disruptions in the workings of a market economy, the simple fact is that we are $14 trillion dollars in debt and going in deeper every year. We just can’t afford a lot of things we’ve done in the past, and federal farm subsidy program is one of them.

    Providing or subsidizing insurance is almost as bad. Crops or ocean front property: if the commercial insurance market won’t insure an activity at a price a farmer or property owner is willing to pay, that’s a pretty good signal that it is too risky for the public.

  • georges

    Currently 15.811 Trillion.

    14 Trillion is the good old days.

  • Garret

    Only 2% or so of the US population is directly employed by the agricultural sector. Rural family farms are a thing of the past. We need to stop giving corporate welfare to giant agribusinesses in the guise of helping out the poor farmer.

  • Emery

    Whenever I think of farm subsidies, I think of this description of Major Major Major’s father in book Catch-22:

    “He was a farmer who firmly believed that government aid for anybody besides farmers was creeping socialism.”

  • Allison

    My suggestion is hand delivery of checks marked “Government Welfare” by some flaming gay men wearing ass-less chaps. How much longer do you think the subsidies would last then?

  • georges

    How do you bankrupt a farmer?

    Answer: Weld his mailbox shut.

    This “joke” was told to me 30 years ago, by a rural MN farmer.

  • matt

    Allison for President!

  • Steve the Cynic

    A little perspective is in order. Government support for agriculture did not originate in America. Originally, it was a national security measure, not a semi-socialist redistribution scheme, the idea being that an underfed populace was more likely to rebel and/or be defeated in case of foreign invasion. The current farm program, however, is way bigger than necessary for that purpose. It has gradually morphed into corporate welfare for big agribusiness.

    What we really need, if we want to support family farms and discourage a takeover of agriculture by corporate oligopolies, is a graduated land tax.

  • Jim G

    What is the purpose of these direct payments? Does the bill provide fertile ground for growing the food our world needs or does it enrich corporate agribusiness at the expense of the smaller family farms. It’s time to get these large corporations off the public dole.

  • suzie

    Now remember, the over subsidized agribusinessman subsidizes congressmen and women so none of them has to live in poverty. If you want to save money, increase the taxes on products that are coming in from other countries. Also stop the payments to corporate farms to keep land out of production.

    There is a big difference between an agribusinessman and a farmer. The former is in it for the big money with thousands of acres of land and thousands of head of livestock. A real farmer is a steward of the land and cares for the land and his/her livestock.

    I, too, am tired of my tax dollar being used to pay to insure houses that are in areas won’t be insured by for profit insurance companies or for crop insurance for the mega agribusinessmen. If insurance companies won’t insure you, why should the taxpayer?

  • GregX

    Aid to agriculture-agribusiness is wrongly applied. It promotes a singular type of market instead of allowing the market to function naturally. In addition, the subisdies provide americans with a false sense of security in their food and food-prices. We make lots of decisions on what to eat based on cost and availability. the food consumers are in for a surprise when as they learn more about the impact of agriculture policies on their food choices.

  • James

    I am somewhat indifferent.

    Follow the money. They tax me. (Actually they don’t; they borrow from China.) They give it to farmers. Farmers charge less for their product than they would without subsidies. I pay less for my food.

    Take away the subisidies and food prices will go up–either due to pricing strategies or due to supply and demand changes.

    These sorts of programs distort markets. Either for good, or not so good. In this case I don’t know if the distortions are good or bad. (I do know that food in the US is plentiful and cheap.)

    If we take away the subsidies and wierd things happen, we can always put them back.

  • kim

    Reggie’s argument is fine, as long as the public is willing to pay the higher food prices it would take to pay for more expensive crop insurance. And, of course, people could afford to pay more for food, if their incomes could increase.

    This is a complicated issue. There are both good things and problems with the current system. It would be great if the folks in Washington could sit down and work through things with problem solving in mind, rather than politics.

    And, the “fact” that rural family farms are a thing of the past will definitely be considered “news” out here in central MN, where I live!

  • Steve the Cynic

    Federal crop insurance helps preserve small farming operations. Without it, farming a small plot of land (even if it’s 1000 acres) would be unsustainably risky. Due to the random operation of weather, every small producer would eventually suffer a bankrupting loss and have to sell out to a bigger entity. If we want to turn over our food production to corporate oligopolies, eliminating federal crop insurance is a big step in that direction. We’ve already let the markets farmers can buy their inputs from and sell their product to turn into oligopolies (Monsanto, Cargill, ADM, etc), so maybe it won’t make any difference if the family farm goes away, too, sad to say.

  • Isaiah ben Amoz

    Woe to you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land! The Lord of Hosts has sworn in my hearing: Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.

  • inuit

    The “Family Farm” died many years ago.

    The few that remain are statistically immaterial.

  • Craig

    It can be argued that enticements to develop US capacity have a long term strategic benefit. The more we sell to the world–even if at a loss–the more clout we have. For example, China can’t feed itself, and they will add 300M citizens before they begin to trend downward. It is one of the only leverage points we have with them. If we ween them off american food the leverage will be gone.

  • Sue de Nim

    @ Craig

    The downside of that fact is that cheap US food makes it harder for poor farmers in developing countries to make a living.

  • steve the scenic

    Clearly, an industry so profitable does not require high tariffs against imports. Yes abolish subsidies – but get rid of the import tariffs also.

    Subsidies should be given to consumers rather than producers. This way prices would reflect true costs and we could make purchasing decisions according to our own values.

    Dropping agricultural subsidies would probably do more to change eating habits than a multitude of one hundred mile diets.

  • Steve the Cynic

    So, China flooding the market with cheap steel or solar panels is an unfair trading practice, but our flooding the market with cheap food is not? What don’t I understand here?

  • Craig

    Steve the Cynic, I take your question as rhetorical. But in case it is not clear to anyone else; goods, food, energy and debt are the various chokeholds each nation tries to get on the other. Words like fair trade or free trade are lip service woven together to create a thin veneer of civility over the battle for economic dominance. A few major bi/multi-lateral trade agreements are the points de capiton that hold the two layers together.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Steve the Cynic, I take your question as rhetorical.”

    Boy, nothing gets by you, does it, Craig?