NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

No Truth to the "Freedom to Farm" Rumor

June 6, 2002

The 1996 Freedom to Farm law was hailed as a step toward phasing the federal government out of agriculture. But under the farm bill that President Bush signed last month, the government has jumped back in with both feet, doling out subsidies for all manner of plants that grow in the ground -- and disaster relief when they don't come up.

  • There are now subsidies for lentils -- a crop so ancient it's mentioned in the book of Genesis, yet that's still managed to survive without government help -- and chickpeas, thanks to lobbyists hired by the U.S.A. Dried Pea and Lentil Council, of Moscow, Idaho.
  • Fearing they were being denied a place at the federal trough, California growers of garbanzo beans (or chickpeas) got themselves included.
  • Then the onion producers of Orange County, N.Y., got disaster relief if they suffered a poor crop for any year from 1996 to 2000 -- even as New York dairy farmers were rewarded with subsidies averaging $15,200 a year, while that state's apple growers had to make do with only $12,925 each per year.
  • Ginseng growers in Wisconsin were rescued from the peril of competition from the Orient with a provision of their very own.

"Freedom to Farm" has been abandoned in favor of goodies for catfish growers in Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as ranchers in Wyoming.

Source: Robert Pear, "'Freedom to Farm' Law Becomes Freedom to Add Subsidies," New York Times, June 6, 2002.


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