Saturday, December 26, 2009

The endurance is remarkable...

But maybe not inevitable. As long-time readers have known my opposition to farm subsidies is matched by my appreciation for how powerfully they are ingrained into the politics of both sides. And while I may be seeing my own "green shoots" on their eventual disappearance, it is interesting to note new voices of dispproval appearing in the crowd of subsidy opponents.
The next time you hear a Republican or a teabagger complain that President Obama is moving the United States closer to "fascism and socialism" (despite the two philosophies being ideologically opposite of one another), remember this: some of these same people are taking thousands of dollars in a form of "socialism" that we usually don't think about: farm subsidies.
For those not in the know, farm subsidies are when the government pays farmers and businesses in the agricultural field to (a) supplement income, (b) manage commodity supply, and (c) influence commodity cost.
Here's the dirty little secret: some politicians, mostly Republicans but also a few Democrats, figured out how to make tons of money off of this "socialism for the wealthy."  It also comes as no coincidence that most of these particular politicians come from largely rural states. [More]

I think it has been the short-sighted deployment of the most incendiary labels for the Obama administration that has triggered this new spotlight on what is clearly a "socialist" government program.  The long-time conservative view of subsidies has been clear, but also simply a gesture not worth backing with political capital.
I wonder what taxpayers think about the fact that Senator Lincoln and her family have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm subsidies?
From a 2007 USA Today article:
Members of Congress must report sources of income totaling more than $200, but most get payments through partnerships or other entities, so it can be difficult to learn which ones receive the subsidies. Recipients are searchable by name on, but, for example, payments to Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., are listed under her maiden name, Lambert, at a Virginia address near Washington.  Records show Lincoln and her family members collected $715,000 from 1995-2005, the most recent year complete data are available. She said she personally received less than $10,000 a year, and the subsidies ended in 2005 when her land was sold.
Let’s say I force a stranger under threat of imprisonment or violence to part with part of his or her paycheck, and proceed to give that money to a friend.  I would rightly be labeled a thief or worse.  Suppose I not only gave the money to my friend, but kept a cut for me and my family.  That would be even worse.
But when politicians do it we call them “public servants”? [More]

The other new wrinkle is as the likelihood of HCR and other spending bills increase, the search for programs to cut to close the deficit will not overlook farm payments.

At the same time the fact that the most heavily subsidized farmers like me have largely bypassed the Great Recession, while unsupported producers like hog farmers have been clobbered doesn't bode well for farmer unity either.

Are all the pieces slowly assembling to free American farmers from this harmful addiction? I think so. If tea-baggers are the future of the Republican party, they won't cut much slack for candidates embracing the hypocrisy of our farm program, I suspect.

Of course, if TB's are the future for the GOP, all kinds of bets are off.

[Update: Here's another "socialist" program virtually all farmer support]


steve said...

Let's say that farm subsidies are eliminated. What are the likely consequences? Land prices will go down as the return on land will be lower. For those that have borrowed to buy land they will have a hard time staying afloat. For those that already have their land paid for they will see a decrease in rental income if they rent.

It will be the young farmers, that are buying land that would be hit hardest during the transition.

Net income will fluctuate more. An area that has several bad years in a row will not have a safety net and may choose to sell. The largest and most efficient would buy. There would be an even greater consolidation of land.

At least that is what I think would happen.

I don't know what would happen to market share in relation to Europe and Brazil. Any guesses?

Anonymous said...

--Maybe with out subsidies land would sell at its tue" productive" value ,,new generation may be able to be a land owner ,rather than tenant farmers ,, and may cut out spec buyers,,could never figure out why we ail farm checks to guys with say 2-5+ million in net worth???subsidized crops and high land values make for a nice net worth statement, but they just drive up rents,taxes,ect.......and that value is only ralized the day you sell--regards-kevin