Agriculture Subsidies: Just Say No!

Crony cropitalists, in New Mexico and throughout the nation, are hard at work, pressuring Congress to pass another “farm bill.”

Policy researchers are quick to point out that the food-stamp program grabs the largest portion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s expenditures. But that’s no reason to overlook the subsidies showered on farmers. The chart above, taken from the Environmental Working Group’s database, shows that even small-population, dusty-dry New Mexico was able to reap $1.93 billion in “disaster” payments, crop insurance, and the like between 1995 and 2016.

Writing in the Santa Fe New Mexican last month, Lesli Allison and Nelson Shirley — who owns the Spur Lake Cattle Company on the Arizona-New Mexico border — claimed that “farm bill programs have become an essential part of our agricultural system and economy.”

Hardly. As a new paper from the Cato Institute explains, “farm bills” warp the efficient functioning of the food marketplace, enrich wealthy recipients, and prop up an industry that is “no riskier than other industries.”

The money’s been flowing since FDR, and effective lobbying keeps the cash spigot open. Cato’s Chris Edwards writes:

When the 2014 farm bill was passed, supporters claimed that it would save money, but the opposite has happened. The [Agriculture Risk Coverage] and [Price Loss Coverage] programs have cost almost double what the Congressional Budget Office originally estimated. Meanwhile, the cost of crop insurance has soared over the past 15 years.

The answer to crony cropitalism isn’t mild reforms, as proposed by the Trump White House. It’s cold-turkey treatment. Edwards notes the conclusion of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand. Kiwis began to kick their ag-welfare habit in the 1980s, and nearly two decades later, the FFNZ argued that the experiment “thoroughly debunked the myth that the farming sector cannot prosper without government subsidies.”

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