As America enters an age of austerity, when funding evaporates for education, infrastructure, and all manner of government programs, the National Corn Growers Association says, No matter, we still need subsidies. Bigger ones, please. Now.
On Tuesday, the Senate began debate on a farm bill, passed by the Agriculture Committee in April, that would set up another crop insurance subsidy, costing $3 billion a year, to cover any losses farmers suffer, known as deductibles, before their crop insurance policies kick in.The change from the existing direct payment program to the crop insurance subsidies as the primary safety net for farmers means that “payments are going to people who are actually farming,” Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, said Wednesday.
Payments to protect Americas farmers. Reasonable, right?
“When you can remove nearly all the risk involved and guarantee yourself a profit, it’s not a bad business decision,” said Darwyn Bach, a farmer in St. Leo, Minn., who said that he is guaranteed about $1,000 an acre in revenue before he puts a single seed in the ground because of crop insurance. “I can farm on low-quality land that I know is not going to produce and still turn a profit.”
There are two major flaws with this piece of legislation, the first being that it is an egregious misuse of taxpayer dollars. We are in a colossal budget deficit, and this legislation essentially rewards low crop yields on newly farmed land. It doesn’t matter if the land is unsuited for agriculture because farmers are guaranteed federal subsidies. Coupled with the rising food prices of recent years, farmers have the incentive to sow as many new fields as possible, because no matter how productive their harvest turns out to be, Uncle Sam makes sure they receive a return on their investment.The second issue is ecological. Thanks to high food prices and generous subsidies, more and more native prairie is being converted to farmland. At Via Meadia, we can accept the need to plow the prairie to raise crops, but plowing unproductive land simply to get subsidies from the government seems perverse, especially because plowing marginal land — land which would never be farmed without massive subsidies — causes extensive runoff, topsoil reduction, and erosion.If Congress can’t say no to bad ideas like this one, we need to elect a different group of people.Subsidies for American farmers is a timeworn policy, one that began as a way to support struggling farming families during tough times of low prices. Nowadays, these subsidies benefit the giant farming corporations to the tune of millions of dollars a year. And Washington is debating a bill to give them $3 billion more?