Get Politics Out Of Farming

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“Start with the prospect of $6-a-gallon milk,” writes Tom Dennis in the Grand Forks Herald at the beginning of an editorial listing all the dire consequences which will take place if we don’t pass a farm bill by December 31st.

“The Farm Bill does more than just guarantee a safe and affordable food supply,” he concludes. “It touches American life in countless ways, the vast majority of them for the better.”

Dennis, who frequently extols the virtues of “good government,” misses the lesson of this apparently dire crossroads in public policy. We have so thoroughly tied up something as basically necessary to the existence of civilized society as farming the land with so much bureaucracy and red tape – endlessly attended to by an army of bureaucrats and grandstanding politicians – that the farmers themselves must wait with the sort of anxiety they normally reserve for weather patterns to see what sort of legislative activity emerges.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to admit that there’s too much government in farming.

Maybe it’s also time to admit that the real impetus for all this policy isn’t so much protecting farmers as giving the politicians yet another political football to play with. North Dakotans watched as Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp unfairly bludgeoned Republican opponent Rick Berg with the farm bill during this year’s campaign. The politicians love the farm bill, because it’s a useful political tool.

But food isn’t cheaper because of farm bill policy. Our food supply isn’t more stable, and more secure, than ever before because of farm policy. These are fictions sold to us by the politicians. Food is cheaper because of technological innovations and scientific developments that have made farming easier less labor intensive. Our food supply is safer because of pesticides that protect crops, and genetically modified seeds that are resistant to diseases.

All the government has done is drain much of the entrepreneurship out of farming. Most ag policy doesn’t benefit the mythical “family farm” so much as it lines the pockets of big agriculture corporations.

America would be better served by an agriculture industry less in the thrall of politics.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • geoff

    Simple solution: Leave Federal Crop insurance alone. If there needs to be a safety net like direct payments, calculate it this way. If a farmer doesn’t earn 10% net profit after taxes, the safety net can kick in to give them there 10%, if they earn over 10% after taxes: NO SUBSIDY. All the farm program has done is drive up the cost of land and they are creating a bubble much like the housing crisis. A severe drought will in fact drive the value of land back to where it should be and then all farmers will be upside down on their land much like homeowners in their inflated values of their homes. Look back to the 80’s (I think that’s when it happened last).

    • toomuchguvmint

      The clueless and or corrupt congress ever fixated on re-election has chosen to be oblivious to the economic carnage it is creating with the unfair and inequitable crop insurance schemes. It should be obvious to everyone that targeting the largest and most profitable farm businesses with the largest investment and income guarantees grants these operations with an overwhelmingly competitive edge in a highly competitive business. It should be noted that many of these operations have little or minimal land costs and that government has no business guaranteeing ever increasing land values with insurance schemes that cover land costs. It should also be obvious that smaller farm operations targeted with no or minimal government benefits have little or no chance of competing in such an economic environment. Considering the stratospheric levels to which land values have escalated it should be obvious to all that extreme government income and investment guarantees are capitalized into land values and that government has no business targeting the wealthiest with multi million dollar business benefits.

      • geoff

        Agree: I think you agreed with me that the government has created a potential land bubble, similar to the housing bubble?

  • nimrod

    If we would have stuck with the Freedom To Farm Bill of 1996, we would have the Gov’t out of farming now. With inflation and payment limitations, Gov’t payments have become closer to irrelevant to the average producer. Like most programs, farm payments do the opposite of what they are intended for; they artificially inflate land prices, do not help the farmer, and make it harder for young people to get into farming because of increased capital requirements.

    • JW-American

      Good old freedom to farm, My how the three stooges from ND liked to toss that one around.. I had forgotten about it, thanks for the memories..

  • spud

    It’s a mess. Farm payments to farmer’s who have high prices for quite some time upsets everyone. Subsidized crop insurance upsets the masses also both programs are nothing more than welfare. Other people who own there own businesses are not being subsidized by the federal govt. I hate going to FSA to sign up as it takes forever. The handouts from what I hear will continue though. Most likely there wil be one more direct govt payment to farmers. Remember one thing farmers never asked for hot lunch programs and food stamps to be part of any farm bill. Bureaucrats did that along time ago.

  • Thresherman

    Taking politics out of farming in the US is an impossible task unless all the other countries who subsidize agriculture cease to do so. These foreign subsidies affect the world market prices and thus play a role in US ag. Additionally as long as governments dictate where and under what conditions grains can be exported or imported, politics will continue to rear it’s ugly head.

  • banjo kid

    Especially the part where they fine the farmer for using his own crops for the family . If it is a family farm that is the main reason behind farming to provide for the family . if they make to much they sell it to buy seed for the next year, plus make some change to buy needed items or what ever they wish to do with it it is not the governments land nor is it their crops..The government has over stepped their boundary on about everything .Using the children to help around the farm is a way of life and it does not and should not fall under the labor act.

  • toomuchguvmint

    The potential doubling of milk prices is viewed as a total disaster by many. RFS is a major factor in the doubling or tripling of corn and soybean prices. Where is the outrage over the government mandated use of ethanol? Throwing money at problems is not the solution. Throwing money is the problem. See http://www.aberdeennews.com/news/aan-column-congressional-proposal-just-insane-20121215,0,3938965.story

  • bigdaddybernie

    Farmers have only three seasons . . . . . flood, drought, and blizzard !

  • Lynn Bergman

    What is sad is that farmers haven’t yet been successful in convincing each other that any farm bill that provides subsidies also denegrates their pubic image, placing them in the same category as panhandlers.

    I am extremely proud that civil engineers and land surveyors (my occupations), to my knowledge, do not accept any government subsidies.
    Its high time farmers felt the same and acted accordingly.

    • bigdaddybernie

      Pride . . . . . and a dollar might get a you cup of coffee !

  • bigdaddybernie

    Get politics out of farming ! There’s a dream, you may as well try to get politics out of Washington, D.C. ! Politics and farming have been hand in hand for 200 plus years. We used to be an ” agricultural ” nation. Let’s hold a milk strike or demand a bushel of wheat for a barrel of oil. Farmers are their own enemy as they sell themselves to the devil for another gummint’ subsidy and under bid each other !

  • $8194357

    All leftist statists know that to control a population/society
    you need to control the things they “need”.
    Currency
    Food
    Water
    Healthcare
    Energy
    Education
    Housing
    ECt..ECT..Ect…..
    And while your at it follow the “pattern used” by all before you
    and disarm the sheople as well…..
    Go figure, soviet central planning from DC and what they’ve
    accomplished sin 1913 and FDR in the 30’s, huh..

  • splined

    A major reason that margins in ag are tight is because of government not only assuming nearly all the production and marketing risks for many of the major ag crops, but also government guaranteeing a profit to many farmers with current prices and current government insurance schemes. Current farm bill proposals double down on these government risk assumption schemes with new and crazier shallow loss income guaranteeing schemes. When farmers have to budget for more of the production and marketing risks they are not as crazy about driving profitability margins below zero.

  • LibertyFargo

    “The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.” – Thomas Jefferson

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