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Sticky Rice Growers Lard On The Pork

Though we were cheered earlier this week by the prospect of a new farm bill passing that could, among other things, curtail the wasteful $5 billion a year direct cash subsidy program to farmers, it appears that the agriculture lobby has figured out creative new ways to keep getting its government handouts: price floor guarantees. The Wall Street Journal has the story:

The federal subsidy in the House bill guarantees farmers of Japonica Rice that if market prices drop below 115% of the average price of all types of rice, they will get a government payment to make up the difference. Japonica is the formal name for medium- and short-grain rice strains commonly called sticky rice.

The move shines a light on guarantees against drops in commodity prices that are in some ways replacing the much-maligned direct payments to farmers Congress is seeking to end. Subsidies for products such as corn, wheat and cotton cost taxpayers about $5 billion a year. Rice growers have received a total of more than $2.6 billion in subsidies since 1995, according to the Environmental Working Group, a liberal advocacy group that is tracking government spending on the agriculture industry.

An unflattering detail in the story: the provision was strongly backed by Freshman Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a fourth-generation Japonica rice farmer. Polls show only ten percent of Americans trust congress. Look no further than stories like these for reasons why that might be the case.

Liberals and conservatives ought to unite to kill corporate pork like this. Whether you believe in big government or small government, you should fight waste wherever you see it. Price guarantees to the sticky rice growers, though protecting America’s strategically vital sushi supply against the danger of depending on imported sticky rice, can surely be cut as the country struggles to provide necessary services at a price we can afford.

[Sticky rice photo courtesy Shutterstock]

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  • wigwag

    Don’t forget sugar subsidies which come in two forms, subsidies to 5,000 sugar beet farms and 950 sugar cane farms. Most sugar beet production is in Minnesota, Idaho, North Dakota, Michigan and California. Most sugarcane production is in Florida and Louisiana.

    Sugar imports are limited to 15 percent of total consumption which drives up prices tremendously; Americans pay about double the world price for table sugar. To any individual it may not sound like a lot but just ask companies like Hershey or Hines how many jobs are lost because they have to pay twice as much for sugar as they would if the market were free.

    Sugar cane production in particular is an environmental disaster. Sugar cane producers have taken over and despoiled huge portions of the Florida Everglades; the environmental consequences have been ugly. But for the subsidies and the import limits, sugar cane production would not be financially feasible in the United States.

    Both parties are to blame for this massive give away to sugar beet farmers. The advocates for the sugar cane farms (which are almost all massive conglomerates) are virtually all Republicans including Republican conservatives and Tea Party types. One of the biggest villains is Senator Vitter from Louisiana who was happy to vote for amendments to reduce food stamps but loathe to vote for amendments that would reduce sugar subsidies. Another villain is Louisiana’s Republican Governor, Bobbie Jindal. Governor Jindal is a rising star in the GOP mostly on his reputation as a “can do” advocate for fiscal austerity. This hasn’t prevented him from lobbying Representatives and Senators to protect the subsidies enjoyed by Louisiana’s sugar cane farmers.

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