Monday, June 02, 2008

If our votes fall in the forest...

Will they make any noise? Like I have been speculating, Sen. McCain's adamant opposition to farm and ethanol subsidies is turning red voters blue, or at least purple. And the process for some is more than a little uncomfortable.
But it seems almost assured that the choices will be John McCain and Barack Obama, neither, from the standpoint of farmers and many white rural voters, good.

McCain is burdened among these constituencies by close association with Bush. More specifically, he has railed against subsidies for farmers and he was in lock step with Bush's recently overridden veto of a major farm bill that, while capping subsidies, left those subsidies sufficiently intact to mollify Arkansas farmers.

McCain's war record and maverick independence overcome quite a bit with these voters. But it is always problematic for a politician if he is perceived as a threat to livelihoods.

It takes an unusually altruistic voter to support a political candidate who wants to cut that voter's income. A man running for office while saying newspaper columnists ought to get paid less is going to be a hard sell with me, all other issues and factors notwithstanding.

That leaves Obama, who supported the farm bill and the override, but who is an African-American.

I am not saying all East Arkansas farmers are racists. I am not saying all conservative white rural voters in Arkansas are racists. I'm saying remnants of a racist culture stubbornly persist in some parts of rural Arkansas. [More]
But even if they can bring themselves to vote for Sen Obama will they keep the system of payouts they have fought for? I'm not so sure. I think stronger payment limits/means testing will be back, in that case.
Both Democratic candidates, Sens. Obama and Hillary Clinton of New York, voted for the legislation when it first went through the Senate but weren't present for the vote overturning Mr. Bush's veto. Both campaigns said they supported the override. Because of a clerical error, a section of the bill was omitted for the override vote, and lawmakers are expected to deal with that this week.

The legislation begins shifting the direct farm subsidy from one that all farmers receive to one paid only when times are bad. While there is still an element of the payment formula involving a direct subsidy, it is decreasing.

"Sen. Obama is a supporter of that concept," said Jon Doggett, vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.

The Illinois senator has also advocated cutting support for large commercial farmers and transferring it to small and medium-size family-owned farms.

Sen. McCain, on the other hand, has opposed farm subsidies regardless of their structure, Mr. Doggett said. [More]
But the largest problem of all is whether our tiny handful of votes really amount to any political clout. One thing does seem reasonable is the farm vote could be farm more divided than we have seen for along time. And if the split is roughly 50-50, it's like we didn't vote at all, in some sense.

This outcome will not go unnoticed by political analysts.


Ol James said...

I believe it's going to come down to those Democrats that were shafted by their party (MI & FL) . A swing vote from them will lead the way to get back at them while possibly putting McCain in the White House.
Don't think Obama has the experience or trust.
McCain and I don't agree on a lot things.
Mayhaps folks will write in Mz. Clinton and she will switch party affiliations and become a "Liberal Republican", if there is such a thing.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the specifics of John McCain's farm policy, but if he wants to eliminate all subsidies to farmers, I'm for it. As a young beginning farmer, I see subsidies and government programs as a major roadblock, not to mention a PR problem. With record commodity prices, now is the time to stop direct payments. Now is also the time to stop conservation payments, but somehow I doubt McCain will be for that.

It is unbelievable that with starving people in the world, the US government pays landowners NOT to produce anything. It is equally unbelievable that with record commodity and food prices, the US government pays farmers TO produce those things. Supply and demand forces need complete control of the economy, without any interference such as farm programs and energy bills. Less government equals more opportunity for me.

Anonymous said...


I firmly agree with you on the elimination of subsidies. I think my tax dollars could do so much more if I got to spend them versus someone else. I think the opportunities for young farmers are endless, but seem somedays to be on an island linked by a toll bridge with subsides as the toll.

I do disagree however on the conservation aspect. As a strong Reagan Republican I am a small voice when I do speak out against drilling in ANWR. One only has to visit Alaska to realize it is one of a kind and wrth preserving like so many other places on earth. Certain pieces of ground are not suited to producing food, although they can, they are better off supporting our wildlife and geography. This is where perhaps government is needed. On the micro economic level everyone makes the decisions in front of them but the government works on the macro level and makes the decision all around. Not a perfect situation I will give you, but in this case preserving those lands means more than the few bushels we would receive.

It is not those lands in conservation programs that will feed people, it is the technology on the land suited to production. This is where the economics come in. In this case Norman Borlaug gains strength. I am personally appalled that people go hungry, and in fact it was on my mind the waste of food in this country last night at my supper table. Dr. Borlaug seemed to question those wanting to produce less food by rebuking technology. Rather than farm those grounds not suited to production, perhaps focus should be on those grounds that are suited. Not so much farm the hell out of it, rather farm it well and farm it smartly so that yields are efficient with inputs.

The lands that need preserved in this country must be "policed". Game theory cannot be relied upon to protect the lands as the want of one more bushel may prove too much. Can't believe I am saying this, but the current solution seems to be working just fine, and kudos so far to USDA for not backing down to the pressure to plow down CRP.

John Phipps said...


Great comments. I tend to agree with brian re: ANWAR. Too far away, too expensive to develop, too long to bring online, and too irreplaceable to warrant what would essentially be a full employment act for pipeline builders.

As for McCain, if he could just lower the foreign policy bellicosity a few notches, I'd support because of farm policy alone.

[Please see my post about ND oil boom later tonight.]

(Just got the power back on - sigh)