Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Payment limits in IL...

Two outstanding articles (here) (here) in the Springfield (IL) Journal-Register regarding payment limits.

A sample:
Nowhere in their Internet biographies do Vorreyer or Thoma say they are farmers. But they both have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies, money that isn't supposed to go to anyone who isn't farming.

Since 2000, taxpayers have given Vorreyer more than $1.4 million in subsidies, according to federal databases. Thoma has collected more than $655,000 since 2000.

The law says subsidies aren't supposed to go to anyone who isn't "actively engaged" in farming, and that means more than buying fertilizer and hiring folks to do the work.

Taxpayer money has flowed to Thoma and Vorreyer largely through corporations called MV Inc., which has Vorreyer as its sole shareholder, and A&M Inc., which is owned equally by the sisters, federal records show. The sisters also collected nearly $600,000 between 2000 and 2005 via J.C. Dowson Inc., a corporation they own with their brother, John.

You get the drift - another story of gaming the farm program. The reason I noted this was the comments section. Many were outraged at the idea of rich people getting government checks meant for deserving farmers.

Also present were strongly defensive comebacks by (presumably) farmers. Their arguments in favor of continued subsidies fell into predictable categories.
  • Farmers have to work harder than other people and have no control over their economic circumstances.
To all you who say end all subsidies, have you ever tried to operate a business where all of your inputs are purchased on the retail market and sold on the wholesale market? If you have then you have farmed. If you haven't then you don't know what it is like to pay $200+ for a bag of seed corn, or $550 for a ton of fertilizer and pray that the bottom doesn't fall out of the market so that you can make all your operating and land loan payments. When you have done that then you have farmed. The big boys may be getting a little bit extra, but they have simply found a way to work the system, and anyone in business knows that if you can work the system better than your competitor then you are going to make more money, ina world where money is king.
  • Farm subsidies make food cheap. (AKA - "without us you'd starve")
To those of you who think that farm subsidies should be ended, remember what you wished for when over 25% of your income goes toward feeding your family. There should be a limit on payments, but this country has a cheap food policy for a reason, and that is to keep the 95% of you folks that couldn't grow a blade of grass from starving to death. A strong agriculture economy is the backbone to our country's survival.
  • Oh yeah, well you can go #$%&*##$
Yesterday's farm story had its comments disabled because the bulk of the comments we were receiving violated the decency guidelines we have in place.
I mention this because the power of the first two arguments - which are totally without substance - grips many in agriculture. This used to bother me until I realized those who embraced them most fervently usually were unlikely candidates for long-term professional survival.

Maintaining beliefs that do not correspond to reality requires immense effort, and eventually falls short (hence, I believe the anger). We have done a great disservice to such people by allowing their fatuous disengagement with truth to go unchallenged in the name of comity.

[Thanks, Chris]

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