U.S. agricultural policy is little more than corporate welfare

But I am not a farmer, nor any sort of expert on farming or farm policy. Is my position full of shit?

It is nothing more than corporate welfare. It’s a conclusion that’s unavoidable to everyone who knows the facts. Nor should it come as a particular surprise. Our political system allows legal bribery of Congress through campaign finances and lobbying. Given that, of course the richest people will have the most political influence, and of course they will use that influence to get themselves more money. It’s the same story in agriculture as in banking, housing, the auto industry, health insurance, and anything else you care to name.

What many people may not realize is how far the influence of lobbyists spreads. Most people could probably guess that lobbyists lobby for direct handouts and price supports. They may also realize that lobbyists are responsible for tariffs on sugar and other crops. But how many people know that lobbyists have also played a role in the USDA’s dietary guidelines? The famous food pyramid is not based on nutritional science, but rather on business interests. You can read the whole story here.

I gather that the justification for current ag policy is that food is a strategic commodity and that should war break out, we want to be able to produce as much as we need. Is this the justification and does it hold any water?

Agreed. I note that McCain was brave enough to campaign on ending the ethanol subsidy, in Iowa. To my knowledge no other major politician has done so.


Honestly, I doubt you’ll get a serious debate here.

If the government insists on corporate welfare – I mean the farm subsidies – at least let them subsidize healthy fruits and vegetables instead of corn and soy. Yeah, popcorn and corn-syrup-sweetened soda might go up in price, but the price of broccoli and and oranges might go down, therefore encouraging healthier eating.

Never mind, that’s just crazy talk.

You’ll get no big argument from me. And the big corporations hide behind the thin, and getting thinner, veneer of “supporting the family farm”.

But, but, but - If we must have corporate welfare, and it sure does seem that we must, then I can’t think of another type of business that I’d rather have that welfare than the industry that makes our food. We don’t want the food industry to be too competitive. We actually want that industry to so overproduce that there is always plenty for everyone and a huge surplus to top of that, and then some more on top of that, just in case of emergency. And then some more, so we can make fuel out of it.

I’ve railed for years about the deal some “farmers” get but I think I’ve made my peace. Making sure we have the food is the major point.

BTW, your first link isn’t working for me ITR.

Do they? There aren’t many family farms out there reaping much benefit out of subsidies, unless it’s such a gigantic family farm that it goes beyond the boundaries of what you might describe as anything but corporate, right?

Well, small farms do get subsidies. I know plenty of family farmers who get subsidies, incentives, quotas or tax breaks of one kind or another. My own Mom used to rent out her peanut quota that she gets for having inherited a farm that she also rents out. The actual existence of the government quota made her a (small) profit. An uncle was one of those farmers you hear about who got paid to not plant his fields.

But my point was that the big boys use the small farm as a front in their ad copy. The mega-corp agribusinesses aren’t above lobbying for subsides to “help the family farm” and then reaping that subsidy on a huge scale for their own profit.

You have admitted your own lack of knowledge but yet you offer a conclusion in the op! So Yeah your position is full of shit!

You have got to watch out asking questions about AG business here in Chicago. They really have a lot of emotional baggage with once being the hog butcher of the world. Chicago has never gotten any respect. And now Chicago’s adopted Marxist native son is getting slaughtered in the polls.

What is this I don’t even

I actually thought farmers got subsidies specifically for this reason, since weather can be so volatile. Since you can’t eat money, its far, far, far better to waste some and make sure you have enough food in case there is a nasty drought/floods/freak ice storm/locusts/etc.

What do they get them for if not that?

It just provides the numbers to confirm exactly what you’re saying about big vs. small farms. The largest 10 percent of farms receive 72 percent of all subsidies.

Any idea what share of production that top 10% contributes? I’m not defending the subsidies, but dollars per farmer isn’t that useful a measurement.

Per the op, Full of Shit! ITR champion wants to read into the report something that is not there.

A bunch of lunatic vegans come along after USDA had won approval so it is no wonder that meat and dairy producers, protecting interests of the consumer, stood up against unsubstantiated bull shit of a vegan diet. Oh that’s right vegans will only eat bullshit after the plant has transformed it or is that against the faith as well!

**per the op, Full of shit! **ITR champion and Grassley attempt to find a bad guy to target their propaganda.

Just spot checking the US corn subsidy data base
or the Missouri 8th district subsidy data base
or Iowa total subsidy data base
You will find that those largest recipients are owned by 4 to 40 farmers who set up an LLC to reduce costs through economies of scale. And just doing a little math the individual owners of the LLC don’t receive much more or less in subsidies than the individual small farmer.

And according to the GAO

**There is NO corporate welfare in the farm subsidy programs. **
Individual farmers and farms just joined together to fight the full of shit positions!!!

Well, what about sugar cane farming? Aren’t there tariffs to protect that sector against competition? What is that if not corporate welfare?

It’s not exactly a black and white issue. **Look at ITR champion’s ** own cite, for example.67 percent of farmers don’t receive any subsidy at all.

Now a lot of that 67% is what they call “hobby farms.” Let’s look at the remaining 33% – about 700,000 farms, more or less. The top 10 percent of those who do receive subsidies averaged $36,290/yr. over a 10-year period. Given that a really large farm grosses somewhere over $1 million a year, no one is exactly getting rich of farm subsidies.

Of course as a commodity business, agriculture has pretty narrow margins. The Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers for taking their most environmentally fragile land out of production for 10 years, pays farmers an average of $48.88 per acre to not produce anything. Currently, farmers have 36 million acres in the program – having decided that $48.88 per acre per year is a good deal.

I did a project on the sugar program a few years ago, so it’s a personal favorite of mine. All tariffs and price supports on sugar were repealed in 1974. At that time, the world price of sugar was about 30 cents a pound, and Congress figured U.S. farmers should be able to compete at that price.

What actually happened was that a tidal wave of foreign sugar came into the U.S., the price of sugar collapsed and the beet sugar industry in the U.S. pretty much disappeared in a couple of years. At that point, the world price of sugar rose by more than 50%. Coincidience? No one knows. But by the time the sugar industry got Congress to revive the program, the U.S. beet sugar industry would never recover, the cane sugar producers were hanging on by their fingernails and the price of sugar to the consumer ended up higher than before.

As a side effect, that was the point where high fructose corn syrup became economically viable as a sugar alternative, but that’s a topic for another thread.

So, to sweeteviljesus’ question, yes, there’s a certain amount of fear that without subsidies, U.S. farmers will go out of business, and we’ll be at the mercy of foreign production, which can always be cut off. By the way, we aren’t alone in feeling that way. It’s a huge concern in Europe.

If you want to call it corporate welfare, that’s in the eye of the beholder. But remember that, just like individuals on welfare, no one is getting rich off of it.

The other side of the farm subsidy/tariff coin is that the developed world is screwing over the developing world with it. If the market distortions were removed, the primary beneficiaries would be the small cost-efficient peasants in developing nations who could then sell their products for significant profits. In the current situation, tariffs and subsidies prevent them from entering Western markets.

The farm subsidies only made sense when 90% of families lived or worked on farms, mostly operator owned. The main reason was to even out weather-dictated feast and famine years.
But the giants we have now can always find some crops working, and they can afford insurance in their other investments.

Nothing ever is black and white. Over the 233 years of American farming The government worked with and for We the People to insure an abundant, high quality, consistently priced and safe food supply while always having some to export or otherwise divert to other uses, wetland restoration, watershed preservation, soy foam and ethanol. Lessons were learned as We the People went along.

If one just does a little math on the data the Ag programs also provide stability of the individual farmers income, whether the farmers are in a group LLC or individually, such that land stewardship talent is retained just like any other American industry.

How would you like it if your salary fluctuated feast to famine year to year based on the weather. You would go find a more stable job, your employer would lose valuable talent and customers would be denied the benefit of the product.

Travel through western Colorado and witness all the abandoned sugar beet processing plants and imagine the hardship and devastating grief the people suffered. But that was just an isolated part of the entire AG industry and the lesson learned was that action needed to be taken to guarantee food sources for We the People right here in the US apart from what ever was going on in Uzbekistan.

kunilou, Nice work! Here it comes
**AG programs are NOT welfare. Welfare recipients for the large part live in big cities and don’t work productively for anything including their food supply. While the American farmer for the large part works his ass off and invests a whole lot of money in a seed, fuel, cutivation and then a freak hail storm comes along or Uzbekistan has an atypical bin busting crop so at the end of that harvest year that American farmer is bankrupt and his expertise at growing things is lost forever and another piece of the American landscape is without a caretaker.

AG programs are not about a feeling they are about trial and error process over the years arriving at a consensus of knowledge of what exactly secures the life and liberty of We the People. Stable and consistent food supply for city dwellers while preserving the bounty and richness of the millions upon millions of acres land from sea to shining sea.**

A perfect example today is Hog Exports to China have dropped 84% this year apparently because of the Chinese fear of H1N1 (swine flu) which has nothing to do with swine and everything to do with superstition. The American farmer and We the People, have a huge investment in hog production so it is stupid to destroy the hog production facilities, buildings and such, along with the pig litters for an assumed momentary glitch in demand. It is wise just to ride out the storm most times rather than rushing headlong into ‘change’.