NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 21, 2008

President Bush and some environmentalists have been on the same side of Congress' long-running debate over a new farm bill.  However, this agriculture proposal remains as out of sync with our times as plowing with mule teams, says columnist William McKenzie. 

For instance, why are we giving about $40 billion in subsidies to grow corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice when:

  • Farm incomes are much higher than the average of the last decade.
  • Farmers are doing so well that they're racing to get out of contracts that require them to set aside land for conservation.
  • Corn is being grown in such quantities that it is stressing the water supply in places like the Texas Panhandle.
  • And crop prices are so high that they are escalating world food prices, which can create unrest in places we don't want to create unrest.

H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with National Center for Policy Analysis, says he would go even further in criticizing the nation's farm program:

  • Research indicates that agricultural subsidies cost the taxpayer billions of dollars annually, adding to the deficit.
  • In addition, they keep farmers in developing countries in an unconscionable, perpetual state of poverty, since the competitive advantage they have in producing many agricultural goods is undermined by crop subsidies and protectionist measures in the United States.
  • Environmentally, subsidies are a disaster, providing farmers with the incentive to press marginal, environmentally valuable lands into crop production and to overuse pesticides and fertilizers to increase crop yields.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Subsidies Cost Taxpayer," Dallas Morning News, April 20, 2008; and William McKenzie, "Bush, environmentalists right to oppose farm bill," Dallas Morning News, April 15, 2008.


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