Sowing More Big Government with the Farm Bill

by Ron Paul

Recently Congress sent the latest Farm Bill to the president. The bill features brand new federal programs, expansion of existing subsidies, more food stamps and more foreign food aid. This bill hits the taxpayer hard, while at the same time ensuring food prices will remain elevated. The president vetoed the bill, citing concerns over its costs and subsidies for the wealthy in a time of high food prices and record farm income. Nevertheless, this over-reaching, government-expanding Farm Bill will soon be law.

The truth is most farmers simply want honest pay for honest work. However, if the government is providing competing farms with advantages, and one wants to remain a farmer, one must seek a proportional advantage from government. It is a difficult position for the farmer. Some are better at qualifying for taxpayers’ largesse than others as evidenced by the fact that more than 60% of the subsidies go to just 10% of recipients, edging out the small family farm. This entire system is unfair and demoralizing. It disproportionately benefits big agribusiness at the expense of struggling family farms.

Third world countries also lose with these continued government manipulations. Agricultural subsidies lead to overproduction, which leads to foreign food aid as a form of dumping. By “dumping” government-created agricultural surpluses, agrarian economies are artificially kept in a constant state of economic depression. The would-be third world farmer cannot compete with “free” grain, thus he and his countrymen remain perpetual beggars rather than competitive producers. Also, by keeping food prices high, we keep more of our own citizens dependent on government food stamps, instead of paying fair market prices for food.

Free trade helps farmers and consumers much more than this convoluted system of subsidies, surpluses and central planning. Newly opened markets would create increased demand for what we produce. There is absolutely no reason we trade with China, yet not with Cuba. With energy and transportation prices as high as they are, opening up trade with a country as close as Cuba just makes sense. The recent power shift from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul, and the somewhat positive steps he has taken, provides an opportunity to lift the embargo.

Removing unreasonable, confiscatory tax policies would also make good farm policy. We need to permanently repeal the estate tax, which would again take a devastating 55% cut of family farms upon death of an owner. This tax will force the sale of many family farms, and further huge corporate agriculture.

Those who believe federal farm programs benefit independent farmers, should take note that after 70 years of this type of government intervention, small farms continue to struggle while large corporate farms control an ever-increasing share of the agricultural market. Subsidies for agribusiness should be stopped and the free market should be allowed to work. With commodity and food prices on the rise, Congress had an opportunity to scale down government controls and taxpayer funding of agriculture. Instead, despite the warning sent by an 18% approval rating, Congress stubbornly opted for more of the same.


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  • John C. Randolph

    I propose a solution: step one, make farm subsidies available only to individuals, not corporations. Step two, eliminate them altogether. This removes the ability of Cargill and ADM to hide behind family farmers when milking the taxpayers. Once the advantage goes the other way, the corporations will demand that their minions in the congress abolish the subsidy which would then favor the family farms over the conglomerates.


    • Agman

      This all depends on your defenition of a “large or corporate” farm. My family farms around 2200 acres of corn and beans and for our area we are considered large and our business is incorporated as well. Just 60 miles away from us, we would be considered a below average sized farm, but because of things like farm subsidies we are able to keep paying outrageous input prices and stave off selling to larger farmers or corporations. The problem with the farm bill and farm subsidy debates is that no one actually asks farmers what they think, but rather the representative that resides in the captial city of an agricultural state who probably has no experience in agriculture whatsoever.