WaPo: Does anybody else think these agriculture subsidies are getting out-of-control?

posted at 8:41 pm on February 19, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

There is no sector of the American economy that has been so systematically and unnecessarily coddled for so long as agriculture. Stretching back to the 1800s, the federal government has been steadily piling on a hugely complex network of subsidies, payouts, grants, insurances, exemptions, regulations, loan programs, tariffs, production controls, protections, and who even knows what else meant to help out the supposedly struggling agricultural industry — except that none of the ostensible reasons for which the government claimed they did so actually apply anymore, if they ever did in the first place.

Alleviating farmer poverty? Farm household incomes are well above the national median. Saving the family farm? The vast majority of federal subsidies benefit the largest and wealthiest echelon of agribusiness growers of the ten biggest crops, not the small farms producing the organic butternut squash and boutique tomatoes we’re told we should be eating. Ensuring a cheap and stable food supply? The government constantly distorts market signals that jack up prices and misallocate resources — the free market just does it better. Protecting the environment? Big fail there, too: The government’s subsidies are become a part of lands’ values and create incentives for bringing marginal lands into production.

All of these agriculture and rural subsidies are so politically entrenched, however, as to have rendered them practically infallible — which is a darn shame, because as even the Washington Post editors opine, America is directly enriching an industry that doesn’t need the help in the slightest.

Actually, farming no longer resembles the hardscrabble family enterprise of so much mawkish marketing. Much of it is dominated by large operators supplying not only the U.S. dinner table but also far-flung export markets. Notwithstanding a major drought, net farm income for 2012 reached $112.8 billion, according to the Agriculture Department, down only slightly from the previous year’s record of $117.9 billion in 2011. USDA expects farm income to hit a post-1973 high of $128.2 billion in 2013. …

Farmers are wealthy, the U.S. food supply is not remotely at risk — and yet the government still piles on the subsidies. They totaled an annual average of $11.5 billion over the past four years, according to USDA. …

But limiting agricultural corporate welfare to a quarter-million dollars per couple is a far cry from a total rethink of farm policy, which might start with this question: Perhaps God made the farmer, as Paul Harvey says. But does the federal taxpayer have to make him rich?

The Post also points out that big agriculture-related companies are major recruiters on Midwest college campuses, and that students majoring in agricultural studies have the third-lowest unemployment rate of any undergraduate major. This is hardly an industry on the strugglebus — it’s food, people. The demand won’t be going away anytime soon.

The government only gets in the way of innovation and efficiency as they dole out what usually amounts to corporate welfare for the politically favored few.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

If WaPo is questioning it, it’s waaaay past time to address it.

besser tot als rot on February 19, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Annoying how this article uses this as an excuse for the rest of big government.

Count to 10 on February 19, 2013 at 8:44 PM

End them now, and for the love of Pete, stop using food for fuel!

KCB on February 19, 2013 at 8:47 PM

…of course not!

KOOLAID2 on February 19, 2013 at 8:50 PM

Farmers are wealthy, the U.S. food supply is not remotely at risk — and yet the government still piles on the subsidies. They totaled an annual average of $11.5 billion over the past four years, according to USDA.

And not one mention of food stamps which is $74 billion in 2012.

Also…
school breakfast and lunch programs $16 billion in fiscal 2009

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program $7 billion in fiscal 2009

sharrukin on February 19, 2013 at 8:50 PM

Because I do not understand the farming industry here, I shall refrain from commenting… :-)

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 8:52 PM

And yet they would likely attack any attempt by Republicans to get rid of them.

supernova on February 19, 2013 at 8:53 PM

The government only gets in the way of innovation and efficiency as they dole out what usually amounts to corporate welfare for the politically favored few.

…YEP!

KOOLAID2 on February 19, 2013 at 9:03 PM

I concur, shut it down! I am perfectly happy to pay for my food directly instead of directly AND indirectly.

astonerii on February 19, 2013 at 9:03 PM

Because I do not understand the farming industry here, I shall refrain from commenting… :-)

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 8:52 PM

Isn’t that a comment?

besser tot als rot on February 19, 2013 at 9:04 PM

If not for ethanol and corn syrup…..both needless…….

hillsoftx on February 19, 2013 at 9:06 PM

besser tot als rot on February 19, 2013 at 9:04 PM

Why Yes! Yes it is! ;-)

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 9:06 PM

End these subsides, end foreign aid to all countries as well.

MoreLiberty on February 19, 2013 at 9:08 PM

STOP THE SUBSIDIES!!

But wouldn’t that make food prices increase?

Like milk as high as a gallon of gas?

Eggs, well you might need a second mortgage!

And don’t even mention a loaf of bread!

You will have to sell a child to afford it /s

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 9:09 PM

Yes. The price of a gallon of milk should be half of what it is right now if market forces were allowed to operate. Same product, same quality, half the price.

The enormous AG subsides are ridiculous and outdated. Too many in the GOP protect these massive taxpayer scams and it’s hypocritical and pathetic.

visions on February 19, 2013 at 9:10 PM

The war on farmers. :-)

tommy71 on February 19, 2013 at 9:14 PM

tommy71 on February 19, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Good evening T71! Uncle T! ;-)

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 9:19 PM

STOP THE SUBSIDIES!!

But wouldn’t that make food prices increase?

Like milk as high as a gallon of gas?

Eggs, well you might need a second mortgage!

And don’t even mention a loaf of bread!

You will have to sell a child to afford it /s

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 9:09 PM

.
Hey! … You said you weren’t going to comment . . . . .
.

Because I do not understand the farming industry here, I shall refrain from commenting… :-)

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 8:52 PM

Isn’t that a comment?

besser tot als rot on February 19, 2013 at 9:04 PM

listens2glenn on February 19, 2013 at 9:20 PM

visions on February 19, 2013 at 9:10 PM

Oh you are so ‘visionary’ say what!

If that is the case then why hasn’t 0 done somthing about it?

I am sure all or nearly all liberals have inundated the WH the DNC with PLEAs to PLEASE stop the subsidies!

Full of it ain’tcha…

All mouth no trousers.

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 9:22 PM

Do you guys understand that no representatives/Senators from Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, or any other plains state WILL NOT get elected unless they support farm subsidies?

Nevermind most of the subsidies go to big agra, which doesn’t need it.

The ‘conservatives’ that live in these states are big hypocrites and what the government cheese just like those who get Obama phones.

Also…Chuck Hagel is from Nebraska….

nazo311 on February 19, 2013 at 9:22 PM

listens2glenn on February 19, 2013 at 9:20 PM

Awwww shucks, couldn’t help myself… ;-D

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 9:23 PM

Hey Scrumps, please stop callin me Uncle. I’ll feel old, lass. :-)

tommy71 on February 19, 2013 at 9:25 PM

WaPo: Does anybody else think these agriculture subsidies are getting out-of-control?

Le oui.

petefrt on February 19, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Just think of the billions that could be saved if we stopped supporting lovely things like the ethanol mandates… why you could probably feed millions with all that corn. Or other productive crops. Say if we wanted to run the US automobiles on pure ethanol we would ONLY need three Brazils! Of course every acre of land for crops in the US would be devoted to that single pursuit…

No food for you! Agriculture is subsidized!

ajacksonian on February 19, 2013 at 9:29 PM

Imagine a Republican saying this. The progs will demagogue it to death. ‘The pubs are declaring a war on farmers, while they’re silent on the tax breaks and loopholes available to the millionaires and billionaires. They support the ‘rich’, and they hate the ‘poor’ hard-working farmers’. Don’t you think thats what the progs would say? You betcha.

tommy71 on February 19, 2013 at 9:35 PM

listens2glenn on February 19, 2013 at 9:20 PM

.
Awwww shucks, couldn’t help myself… ;-D

Scrumpy on February 19, 2013 at 9:23 PM

.
.
(mumbling) Darn Hotair commenters who say one thing, do another, and then say “couldn’t help myself”, just makes me so livid . . . . .

listens2glenn on February 19, 2013 at 9:45 PM

I have a feeling that very soon food will be our currency…

… I gladly support our Food Growing Over Lords.

Seven Percent Solution on February 19, 2013 at 9:47 PM

If WaPo is questioning it, it’s waaaay past time to address it.

besser tot als rot on February 19, 2013 at 8:43 PM

1st post and THIS!!

CYA..”Look!! We said something about it so were totally journalists and stuff!!”

BigWyo on February 19, 2013 at 9:49 PM

Too many in the GOP protect these massive taxpayer scams and it’s hypocritical and pathetic.

visions on February 19, 2013 at 9:10 PM

Lol..WHUT??

BigWyo on February 19, 2013 at 9:52 PM

Progressives for a Human Free Planet… subsidize agriculture until it dies and then the rest of humanity will be SOL

ajacksonian on February 19, 2013 at 9:56 PM

The war on farmers. :-)

tommy71 on February 19, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Not really. The WaPo thinks that farm subsidies are a Republican invention — and that’s far from it. The modern farm subsidy (in which farmers are paid to leave their fields fallow or to destroy or hold from the market a large percentage of their produce in order to construct a scaffolding of price supports) was a Democratic invention of the Depression.

As a result of farm subsidies, many farmers who received substandard allocations from co-ops, etc were forced out of business. Furthermore, the estate tax, another Democratic invention, worked to assure that families could not keep farmlands in the family — that they would have to be sold in order to procure the funds to satisfy a federal tax obligation.

As a result, more and more land was transferred to “big agriculture” — corporations built by smart people to, by economy of scale, bypass the problems low quotas might cause in certain areas in favor of the advantages of high quotas in others. In addition, because corporations never die, the estate tax is completely eliminated from the equation.

We also have a byzantine situation in which a house in a subdivision, which once sat on agricultural land, now receives a subsidy to not grow anything other than grass or trees. As a result, houses on lands receiving subsidies are artificially inflated in value.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/01/AR2006070100962.html

Any intervention by the Government into a marketplace warps and distorts that marketplace.

unclesmrgol on February 19, 2013 at 9:56 PM

Yes. The price of a gallon of milk should be half of what it is right now if market forces were allowed to operate. Same product, same quality, half the price.

visions on February 19, 2013 at 9:10 PM

http://www.modbee.com/2012/04/16/v-print/2160864/court-upholds-2006-milk-law.html

unclesmrgol on February 19, 2013 at 10:05 PM

it’s food, people

classic you

John Kettlewell on February 19, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Lol..WHUT??

BigWyo on February 19, 2013 at 9:52 PM

He’s right. Read the milk link I commented above, and notice that the legislation which screwed Costco and Dean Hettinga was proposed by two Republicans and signed into law by a Republican President.

And Dingy Harry notes with pride that he managed to secure one of his campaign donors a benefit, even as Mr. Hettinga was shut down.

http://www.lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2010/09/29/opinion/columnists/muth/iq_38289325.txt

unclesmrgol on February 19, 2013 at 10:08 PM

I have a feeling that very soon food will be our currency…

… I gladly support our Food Growing Over Lords.

Seven Percent Solution on February 19, 2013 at 9:47 PM

.
In any war, food is always the number one weapon.

listens2glenn on February 19, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Cut em…….but push the politco’s to also get EPA, Animal Rights, govt export/ import controls………..off of Agric backs

Austrailia recently for the 1st time in their history had to import food, as they let the govt beuracrats run rampant and slowed down Ag production.

Cut Ag subsidies, that is fine, but realize the American consumer is the biggest beneficary of them. They eat at 9% of disposable income, the next closest is Germany at 18%. Ethanol drives down gas prices by 1.09 per gallon, and yet maybe adds 5 cents to a box of cornflakes, 15 cents to a pound of steak.

for the cost of maybe 25% of the Ag Bill (rest is food stamps etc) the american consumer gets trillions of benefits—that using Aussies as an example, are not that automatic if the leftwing Enviro wackos are not kept in control.

sbark on February 19, 2013 at 10:20 PM

Cut Ag subsidies, that is fine, but realize the American consumer is the biggest beneficary of them. They eat at 9% of disposable income, the next closest is Germany at 18%. Ethanol drives down gas prices by 1.09 per gallon, and yet maybe adds 5 cents to a box of cornflakes, 15 cents to a pound of steak.

sbark on February 19, 2013 at 10:20 PM

The drive down of gas prices by ethanol still comes out of our pockets — the ethanol producers get a subsidy of $0.45/gal. Given that ethanol prices on the market are now equivalent to gasoline prices per gallon, we have that ethanol adds $0.045 per gallon to our fuel cost due to taxation.

But there’s an additional cost due to the energy density of ethanol being less than the energy density of gasoline:

Gas prices averaged $3.28 for a gallon of regular (E-10) nationwide Monday, according to AAA, up from $3.07 a year ago. E-85 ethanol averaged $2.95. But because cars can’t squeeze as much mileage out of every gallon of ethanol, the price when adjusted to equal the mileage of a gallon of regular was $3.88.

It is left to the reader to perform the mathematical calculation regarding how much the ethanol in e10 gasoline decreases mileage — and hence how much additional gasoline must be purchased to match the energy available in a gallon of pure gasoline.

unclesmrgol on February 19, 2013 at 10:53 PM

End the Bruce Springsteen loophole.

slickwillie2001 on February 19, 2013 at 10:55 PM

Food is the most product a man produces… This sound strange for many in our highly advanced technology age for some but it is the truth… Without food nothing else we produce matters… It is the basic of our existence… In order for us to remain the most powerful nation on Earth we must ensure all the time and at any cost that we not only produce a huge quantity of food but we can also feed ourselves many times over and be able to sell the rest of the world a lot of our let over food products… We must ensure that we have the most advanced and largest food production in the world…

mnjg on February 19, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Food is the most important product a man produces… This sound strange for many in our highly advanced technology age for some but it is the truth… Without food nothing else we produce matters… It is the basic of our existence… In order for us to remain the most powerful nation on Earth we must ensure all the time and at any cost that we not only produce a huge quantity of food but we can also feed ourselves many times over and be able to sell the rest of the world a lot of our let over food products… We must ensure that we have the most advanced and largest food production in the world…

mnjg on February 19, 2013 at 11:06 PM

Hmmmm. You mean because farms and dairies are disappearing all over America and the FDA has become an ag-whore to big industry because big industry is buying up farms for the subsidies? You mean that is a problem? Because the FDA no longer allows hand crafted food to be sold in-State? That is a problem? Who are you to question these college grads? Who? Do you own a gun? Were you a Boy Scout? Did you go to a public school? We have a 700 question form for you to fill out. And we shall then like to inspect your farm while we go over your answers.

pat on February 20, 2013 at 1:13 AM

If you live in a farming community and have worked in a farming community like I have my entire life, this article really hits home. I know plenty of big farmers personally and believe me, they are NOT hurting at all. Yes, they take a huge risk, but their rewards are even bigger. There was a list of government grant recipients in our newspaper, the biggest farmers get the most government money. There are farmers in our area who have grant writers on staff.

All corporate subsidies need to end. Every single one of them.

SueM on February 20, 2013 at 6:18 AM

I live in SW ND & all my neighbors are farmers who might have cattle as well, but get their subsidies for one thing or another.
You get rich by being able to game the system.
A good friend of ours has grown quite wealthy off of the system, yet is a conservative in many things.
You cannot farm competitively without playing the subsidy game. It is NOT possible.
And you cannot believe what some of these hacks are doing.
Bad farmers digging up land & even bringing in payloaders to dig up huge rocks to farm crappy land to set acreage in order to get subsidies in the future.
It is exactly why we ranchers who only have cattle are finding it hard here to compete for pasture when farmers are digging up pasture land to farm it when they should be running cattle on it.
I could tell you stories that would really pi$$ you off about this abuse.
Farmers do not deserve a safety net any more than does the small businessman in the city.
And here in North Dakota corporations cannot own farms. So you’ve got family co-ops squeezing out the individual bcs they can game the system better.
Or some rich guy who lives out of state running a subsidized operation for the tax break & bennies it affords.
I’ve seen it all.
Folks, most of your food would be cheaper if the Fed didn’t subsidize agriculture.
Ranchers have fought this for years, but subsidies are sneaking in for things like Wetlands $$ & Conservation crap.
For us, paying crop land prices for pasture does not pencil in. $32/acre for $hitty pasture? The farmers are putting us out of business round here. Bcs the Fed is setting the price for goods again.
Just like they do for healthcare & education.

Badger40 on February 20, 2013 at 10:30 AM

There was a list of government grant recipients in our newspaper, the biggest farmers get the most government money. There are farmers in our area who have grant writers on staff.

All corporate subsidies need to end. Every single one of them.

SueM on February 20, 2013 at 6:18 AM

There’s a database that a nonprofit makes available of all govt Ag subsidies by county & state.
We were on it bcs of the one time we received a disaster payment.
We are also on it saying we got $400,000. But that is deceiving bcs we did not receive $400,000 from the Federal govt.
We refinanced some of our Ag loans & one of those loans for that amount was partially Federally subsidized.

Badger40 on February 20, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Do you guys understand that no representatives/Senators from Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, or any other plains state WILL NOT get elected unless they support farm subsidies?

Nevermind most of the subsidies go to big agra, which doesn’t need it.

The ‘conservatives’ that live in these states are big hypocrites and what the government cheese just like those who get Obama phones.

Also…Chuck Hagel is from Nebraska….

nazo311 on February 19, 2013 at 9:22 PM

I agree. But this is exactly why our country is going down this $hit hole. No one, NO ONE, ‘conservative’ or liberal alike are willing to have THEIR particular gravy train come to a stop. Just someone else’s.
Bcs let’s be honest, when you feed the wildlife, most wildlife ends up dependent & will violently resist your attempts to wean them.

Badger40 on February 20, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Farmers are wealthy, the U.S. food supply is not remotely at risk — and yet the government still piles on the subsidies. They totaled an annual average of $11.5 billion over the past four years, according to USDA.

And not one mention of food stamps which is $74 billion in 2012.

Also…
school breakfast and lunch programs $16 billion in fiscal 2009

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program $7 billion in fiscal 2009

sharrukin on February 19, 2013 at 8:50 PM

The Farm Bill itself includes all food subsidy programs like SNAP.
And something like over 72% of the Farm Bill is this stuff, & the rest is farmer payments & the like.

Badger40 on February 20, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Chambliss and Isaakson are behind a lot of this and they are a disgrace to the state of Georgia. We are all happy that Chambliss is getting the H out. He knows he wouldn’t survive a primary, and Isaakson won’t when his turn comes…….

ultracon on February 20, 2013 at 12:23 PM

I have a brother that worked for a employment agency. His biggest client was Case, manufacturers of farm equipment. He said that the “farmers of today” are all engineers and the equipment basically can run by themselves. The engineers punch in the appropriate settings (amount of seed, distances, etc.) and basically a monkey can do the rest. They make huge money and are very wealthy.

djaymick on February 20, 2013 at 2:52 PM

It’s a trap.

Some republican will come out against the subsidies citing this article as evidence. The republican in question might even point out that the wapo tends to be supportive of big govt and therefore this has to be a bridge too far, even for leftists.

Then the media will pounce and declare the existence of a republican war on farmers, or war on food, or whatever they have to declare into existence to convince low information voters that republicans hate them and want them to die.

The entire line up on msnbc will be apoplectic over the insensitivity of all republicans and their stupidity on the issue. “Don’t they know humans have to eat???”

And the republican leadership will then denounce the very idea of reducing any farm subsidies, ever, in perpetuity.

But the real irony will appear in the wapo itself, who will run days in a row of front page stories denouncing the republican war on food.

And it’ll work. Again.

runawayyyy on February 20, 2013 at 4:25 PM