Law makers have been threatening to eliminate farm subsidies for years on the grounds that most of it goes to large, corporate style farms that make plenty of money without government help. According to AP reports, existing farm support programs cost taxpayers between $7 and $8 billion annually. The new plan is to replace direct payment subsidies with a form of free insurance against losses due to price fluctuations which would supposedly shave $23 billion off costs over ten years. There is not a lot of agreement on how solid that estimate is. Savings are always calculated as coming mostly in the out years when a new congress, administration and world conditions will have made current projections meaningless.
American industry receives many kinds of tax breaks and production incentives from federal, state and local governments while its executive leaders and board members scream for smaller and less regulatory government: a few of them, such as the infamous Koch brothers, underwriting extreme right wing movements in favor of almost no government at all. However, no segment of American industry is coddled as much as agriculture where subsidies of one kind or another have become an essential part of farming’s revenue stream. Talk about welfare addicts, agriculture wins the crown with no second place in sight.
Perhaps this new idea is a good one in some way. Maybe it’s needed to preserve and protect American agriculture. I live in the rural west. We depend on a profitable agricultural economy to drive everything else. I want our ag. industry to prosper. So I’m open to hearing the case for it. What distresses me is the predominant far right wing political culture of our region that despises government and delights in the most goofy of the right wing candidates and their policies. There seems to be no recognition that the only reason agriculture flourishes is the support it receives from government through direct payments, crop insurance, cut rate electricity, diverted water, and marketing assistance. A little recognition of that, and some gratitude toward the American taxpayer for making it possible, would be appreciated.
The petulant side of me thinks maybe we should start downsizing government by eliminating all farm support programs in their entirety. In the meantime, I find the politics of the region’s agricultural interests to be naive, terribly disingenuous, and frankly disrespectful of the value of government in general.