NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nonsensical Farm Subsidies

August 10, 1999

When it comes to government subsidies, not all growers are equal. Large corporations which produce targeted crops such as wheat, cotton, soybeans and milk reap billions of federal dollars. Producers of tomatoes, table grapes, strawberries and cantaloupes are on their own. So, critics note, there is no uniformity or logic to federal help.

In 1996, the "Freedom to Farm" bill dispersed over $36 billion to farmers without restriction during its purported seven-year life. In turn, they promised to get off the dole during that time. But only three years into the program, growers are demanding more than the $16 billion that has already been paid out this year.

Critics say another absurdity of farm policy is that some farmers receive money when harvests are too plentiful and market prices decline, while others are subsidized when bad conditions lead to sparse crops.

At the same time, family farmers have nearly vanished at the same time subsidies are at an all-time high.

  • One percent of American farmers account for over 50 percent of farm income, while nine out of 10 earn less than $20,000.
  • Five percent of American landowners own 75 percent of the land -- and the bottom 80 percent own just 3 percent.

Source: Victor Davis Hanson (farmer and professor), "Farmers Harvest a Bumper Crop of Subsidies," Wall Street Journal, August 10, 1999.


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