President Obama has discovered a spending program he doesn’t like. It’’s crop price supports and other subsidies that go to farmers - most of whom don’t need them or shouldn’t be getting them.
My latest column at American Issues Project examines the outdated notion that farms need and deserve subsidies:
Thank Thomas Jefferson for the nearly $17 billion we taxpayers are forced to shell out every year to subsidize two dozen commodities with price supports, as well as billions more for a complex of interrelated agricultural benefits for everything from crop insurance to irrigation payments.
It was the Sage of Monticello, gentleman farmer, tinkerer, and agricultural scientist, who envisioned an America of “yeoman farmers,” whose industriousness, virtue, devotion to the land, and love of freedom would one day extend coast to coast in an “Empire of Liberty.”
Jefferson offered this vision as a counterweight to Alexander Hamilton’s money grubbing commercial ideas of factory owners and shopkeepers running the country (along with stock jobbers and speculators). The two great visions of America have clashed since our founding, with Hamilton’s ideals eventually winning out.
But the romanticized Jeffersonian vision of the small farmer, battling Mother Nature and the land itself, has never quite died the death it should have. Hence, beginning with the New Deal, farmers have been given special treatment by the government in the form of price supports that place a floor underneath commodity prices. And most of that taxpayer cash goes to “farmers” who are quite far from Jefferson’s yeoman farmer vision. In fact, it was discovered in 2007 that about $1.3 billion in farm aid went to people who didn’t grow or produce any agricultural products at all, while another study in 2008 found that two thirds of the subsidies go to just 10% of all farmers.
Subsidies costs us hundreds of billions in increased food prices, taxes, and lost exports as other nations raise huge tariffs on our farm products to keep them off their grocery shelves. Poor people around the world suffer as well because subsidies not only make food more expensive but also drive them off the land because they cannot compete with western industrialized agriculture.
Read the whole thing.