Farm Subsidies

I need help understanding this topic.

First, let me tell you what I think I know:
Farmers are paid not to grow crops. The government has chosen to support a lifestyle that is no longer viable, for cultural or social kindness reasons.

Some of my questions:
How much money are we talking about? Who gets it? Do Republicans support this? How is it different than other social programs like welfare? Why do farmers vote Republican (all those red states)? Are sure there are many questions I’m not asking, and much I do not understand. Help.

It’s to keep prices artificially high so that farmers can earn a substantial wage along with their benefits to keep the farm profitable. The only state, well Western state to wean itself off this is New Zealand, and I don’t see the state collapsing so why can’t we do it?

Thanks for raising this OP

Well, on this board you will generally find that both those on the left & right oppose the massive farm subsidies given out by most developed countries. (The EU & US are the biggest subsidisers in this area, followed by Japan.) Left-wingers on this board want to get rid of the subsidies because they harm poor third world farmers, and of course fund some large corportations. Right-wingers at the Straightdope don’t like the subsidies as they are basically a big hunk of government interferance in the economy/welfare program.

The reason that you see large farm subsidies is because there are powerful enough lobbies in developed countries, who lobby politicians of any stripe to pass them.

As to why most of the rural areas vote Republican, there are other issues beside farm subsidies of course. Gun control, for example, is an important issue with a rural/urban split. Rural areas generally have lower crime rates than urban ones, so the residents feel less of a need to control weapons. Rural residents also hunt more often, and tend to own more guns in general. That is one reason why rural people tend to vote for the more gun-friendly Republicans. There are many other issues beside, that split rural/urban, enviromental, social values, ect, which explains why rural areas tend to vote Republican.

Not exactly, Argentina doesn’t have subsidies in fact it has the contrary “retention of exportation”. Farmers are doing so well out of the debacle that they are being overtaxed.

The problem with subsidies is that it screws the poorer of the poor: the third world farmers. I don’t have numbers but much of the misery in the many countries would be limited if farm subsidies were abolished.
Another consequence is that the unfair competition prevents the poor nation to earn much needed hard cash. The consequence is less investment in hospitals, roads, etc.

Argentina isn’t a Western state…yet.

Another (one of many) problems with farm subsidies is that , if you look at who actually benefits from them, it is huge corporations. I think everybody imagines that most of the people who get subsidies are small farmers: this guy who’s great grandfather came from Ireland and started the farm and who want’s his sons to take over the farm someday. I still wouldn’t be crazy about farm subsidies even if this were the case: the guy whose great grandfather started a shoe store can’t ask for the same subsidy. BUT, even still, to me the WORST part of the whole boondoggle is that most of the money goes to huge corporations, the big agribusinesses that grow much of the food in this country.

Basically three farmers get most of the cash.

Farmer Archer, Farmer Daniels and Farmer Midlands.
Ok kind of kidding there. But only kind of.

The program has kind of become a crack additction for small famrmers. Farm equipment is mind0boggleing expensive. It’s very difficult to get a large group of people to switch from a flawed system they know to a different and probably better one.

The other great harm that subsidies cause: the mis-allocation of resources (into financially unproductive areas). Take the US Government: we in the USA pay about 10 times the world price for sugar. This is because the Fanjool family of Florida (owners of US Sugar) pay liberal bribes/er, contributions to both political parties. Sugar is grown in S. Florida, using essentially slave labor (agricultural workers are exempted from minimum wage laws), and produced using scarce water from the Everglades. In fact the pollution of ground water from sugar plantations is such a serious issue that S. Florida may run out of clean water within 5 years! The difference between the world price and the US Sugar price is a tax, paid for by everyone who consumes sugar. Would sugar farming in Florida be profitable without subsidies? Noboy knows, because US Sugar is NEVER going to give up its subsidies!

Well, not, not quite 10 times – but it’s still pretty egregious. From

To be fair, we Floridians did once have a chance to do something about this, and we passed it up. In 1996 there was a constitutional amendment on the ballot which would have imposed a one-cent-per-pound sugar tax and paid the revenues into an Everglades restoration fund managed by the South Florida Water Management District. The sugar industry ran a series of “Harry and Louise”-style ads warning about how the tax would affect small family sugar farmers. (We do have some of those but they’re not typical – most sugar produced in Florida is grown on huge agribiz plantations by migrant labor, Haitians, Dominicans, etc.) The amendment was voted down, 54% to 46%.

And from “The History of U.S. Sugar Protection,”


I was in Brazil this year. In Rio de Janeiro, a five pound bag of sugar cost he eguivilent of $0.55 so you are right. We pay about 6 times this price.

Really?!? This might be a highjack but could you please explain your criterion to define what is a western country. I hope it is not economic success.
Anyway as I always say to my confused american friends: I am more occidental than you… you anglosaxon barbarian :slight_smile:

I would like to see the answer to this question as it related to 2004.

I know what farm subsidies were, why they were created, and how they used to work to help the American farmer.

But in todays global economy, and with so many grocery items at my supermarket now coming from mexico, canada, central america, south america, and elsewhere, I dont see where farm subsidies are any good anymore.

If my supermarket gets all of its lettuce and strawberries from mexico now, its orange juice from Brazil, etc. then why are subsidies still around at all? Today paying farmers not to grow something doesnt work because the supermarkets just buy it elsewhere.