A good hard whack at the latest U.S. Farm Bill

Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group goes up one side of the United States’s subsidies to its farmers and down the other on the Mulch blog:

[W]ealth and income status officially have almost nothing to do with qualifying for farm subsidies. A person of very considerable means, with an adjusted gross income of up to $2.5 million per year under federal rules, can legally collect farm subsidies that range from trivial amounts to seven figures. Taxpayers are well within their rights to take offense, or at least raise an eyebrow, all along that wasteful continuum. And big farmers (earning 75 percent of that $2.5 million AGI from agriculture) are exempt from even this laughable eligibility “limit”.

It’s also no doubt the case that some of the very largest recipients of federal farm subsidies, far from being enriched by the taxpayers’ money, would not have been able to survive at all, much less expand their operations, without a constant infusion of big government checks.

But what is to be said about a government policy that obligates taxpayers to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in unencumbered aid every year, for years on end and with no end in sight, just to keep one business and its owners on the brink of insolvency? Isn’t that policy just as bad, in its way, as a subsidy that makes the wealthy wealthier? And why do we do so much for farm businesses and by comparison so little for factory workers laid off by foreign competition, or small businesses that struggle year after year?

Agriculture subsidies are pure vote-buys that support non-viable domestic businesses, screw Third World farmers out of access to markets that might inch them out of poverty, lead to bizarre gluts of some farm products and shortages of others, encourage monoculture and overfertilized farming, and take money from productive taxpayers to do all these things.


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