The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


May 27, 2014

The Farm Bill Fiasco

— Well, to put it bluntly, it is the welfare program for the wealthy and agribusiness. I have no problem helping farmers who periodically actually need help. However, millions of dollars in subsidies are paid out to more than 1,500 city residents who invest in farmland elsewhere and have no intention of farming, but get paid for not farming. New York City resident Mark F. Rockefeller, a fourth-generation heir of the famous family, was paid $342,634 to not farm from 2001 to 2011, so that his land in Idaho could return to its natural state.

In theory, the farm program uses loans, price support and protection from weather events like drought, floods and crop failure to ensure the farmer makes a decent living and we have adequate farm produce. In practice, the program keeps food prices high, costing consumers billions and lining the pockets of big agribusiness and wealthy farmers, including Riceland Foods Inc., Pilgrims Pride Corp. and Archer Daniels Midland. Dan Sumner, an agricultural economist at the University of California at Davis, said, “The typical city farmer has literally millions of dollars of wealth.” Among the farmers who get federal subsidies are Bruce Springsteen, former president Jimmy Carter and Ted Turner. Just in case you are unaware, the money comes from our taxes.

The program started during the Depression and the dust bowl of the 1930s when there was a genuine fear that the agricultural business was on the steps of collapse. Most of the people who lived on farms were on the verge of losing their land. President Roosevelt pushed through the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which adjusted crop prices to their historic high and introduced the policy of paying farmers not to grow crops to keep prices up. It was supposed to be temporary like the subsidies for big oil and others; however, these gifts will continue as long as money can buy laws and lawmakers.

The future is even worse. The conservative Republican House wants to increase program funding and make it permanent. House Republicans also reduced food stamp funding in the Farm Bill. Small wonder the recipients of food stamps are not among those who give to campaign funds. 

Carlyle W. Westlund, Middleburg

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