Ashe Schow has covered the various industries lobbying for subsidies in the Senate farm bill in an ongoing post called The K Street Food Fight.
Burton Moore, an Arkansas farmer, give us a broader perspective on the farm bill and agriculture as a whole. Unlike K street lobbyists and Washington insiders, Mr. Moore works hard and bears the risk of poor crops or bad market prices. His analysis of agriculture and government's role is telling:
Traditionally, agriculture in the USA has been in a boom to bust cycle. Like everything else there is an economy of size that is determined by the type of crops grown which is largely determined by location. Different farmers have different needs.
To smooth this all out is what our agriculture policy was intended for. Since I have been involved, farmers got money for doing what the government wanted, such as limiting production acres of certain crops. The first is the direct payments that historically refer to acres and yield. The second is like it but is only paid when the market price is low. Now farmers can grow whatever they want with no effects on their historical base payments.
As for me, about ten percent of my income is from government payments. As a true conservative I would give up my largess to save America.
Mr. Moore's perspective helps demonstrate why a massive farm bill, loaded with regulations and payoffs to various interest environmental groups, is not the right course for agricultural policy.
Now with the EPA and the Corp of Engineers and newer state agencies such as the Arkansas Soil And Water Commission taking private property rights away from the farmer, including what he can treat his crops with, and offering nothing in return there is a very bad humor generated when his largess is also removed.
Food stamps and many other programs are lumped in overwhelmingly with the farm in the Farm Bill; it really gives the poor farmer a bad rap with the general perception that all the money is going to farmers, thus they are the ones railed against.
The proposed new subsidies are no better. There is a better way, and our colleagues at The Heritage Foundation outline the policy reforms America needs here.