Monday, September 10, 2007

Farmers Have A Permanent Place at Public Trough

Milton Friedman once said that "Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program." Nothing more clearly illustrates Friedman's insight than farm subsidies. From today's Kansas City Star:

It’s astonishing when you think back on how this got started. It was 1933. It was another “temporary” program to deal with an emergency. It was supposed to help impoverished farm families.

Now the lion’s share of these payments goes to only 10% of the farmers, and since payments are based on per-acre production the recipients are those running the biggest farms.

Not all of them, mind you. Production of fruit, vegetables, beef and poultry — about two-thirds of farm output — remains largely unsubsidized. It makes you wonder why producers of the major subsidized crops — wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton — couldn’t somehow also survive without federal handouts.

New Zealand and Australia have largely done away with farm subsidies. Yet in this country there’s not much stomach in Washington for real reform. Since farm states are often swing states politically, subsidizing agriculture is a bipartisan effort.

Today, farmers constitute only about 1% of the population, yet farmers have carved out a seemingly permanent place at the public trough.


At 9/10/2007 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction: Australia & New Zealand have a substantial comparative advantage in agriculture. That is why our politicians, bless their socks, subsidised _manufacturing_. But that too (Heaven be thanked) has now come down drastically.

At 9/10/2007 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very true. I live on a farm and have yet to see any of the government money that goes to "poor farmers."


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