If farm program proponents keep coming out with statements like this:
"The ag committee has always cared about that. Haven't they heard of the Rural Electric Administration back in the 30s? We've always cared, but don't make us pick between conservation and commodity titles and so-called rural development and infrastructure programs. We have a right to have both." [More] [My emphasis]And that right would be where exactly in the Constitution? This is a textbook example of "entitlement mentality".
The argument over the loss of farmers refuses to deal with the root cause, which is not just hollowing out our profession, but much of the middle class of the US.
Technology is the main culprit. Automation and outsourcing have claimed whole classes of jobs. Among them are routine but vital tasks that were labour-intensive before the computing revolution: manufacturing and number-crunching jobs that used to pay handsomely. The economy now needs workers to do what can’t be done by machines or call-centres in Bangalore, which leaves iPad design and caretaker work but not enough in between. The supply of skilled workers has failed to keep pace with demand, so the college wage premium (see chart) has increased.
Short version: we don't need as many farmers as farming lends itself to powerful technology.
More biorefineries won't mean more farmers. We're obsessing over a symptom and ignoring the cause. The only valid hope for raining the number of farmers is what we saw happen in the last farm census - increase the number of very small farms. This is done by encouraging agrarian agriculture which is much more labor intensive.
But the larger mistake is in equating the number of farmers with rural prosperity. Farm income is not and has not been for a very long time the key component in rural economies. Look at the BEA numbers and try to reach any other conclusion.
Finally when new or higher taxes are enacted to pay for intransigent, entrenched special interests like agriculture, we'll throw the bums out who voted for them and then whine about the deficit.