Farmers on the Hill

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hide captionWonder what he thinks about farm subsidies?

Source: handels

The time has come for Congress to take another whack at the farm bill. Today the Senate begins voting on amendments to the new bill, officially known as the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007. Renewed every five years, the farm bill sets agriculture policy for the entire country. Normally the purview of farm-state senators from the South and Midwest, this year the farm bill has caught the attention of a varied assortment, including the medical community, environmentalists, agribusiness, and small farmers. In addition to billions of dollars in subsidies for farmers, the bill also allocates money for nutrition programs, including food stamps and school snacks, rural development, land conservation, and alternative energy programs in an attempt to placate would-be detractors. Questions have emerged about who benefits most from the legislation, and whether it's time to ax an outmoded system. Among the key issues on the table this week are payment caps and the possible inclusion of a renewable fuels standard. So while the Senate deliberates, tell us: Should farmers continue to get government subsidies?

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Remember, business sets its own price. I as a farmer cant set mine. I cant even set it on livestock. A regular business man says"this is what I will take for my product". We, as farmers, have to say what will you give me?

Sent by Larry Marble | 2:15 PM | 12-11-2007

Why do farmers need support in a free market when all the other businesses in a rural economy do not receive support--independent dairies, farm equipment dealers, etc?

A small family farm is not as romantic as you think--I am from a rural area.

Sent by Ann | 2:17 PM | 12-11-2007

It seems that the question should not be, "Why do we subsidize farmers?", but why do we subsidize giant agribiz companies that farm thousands of acres of single crops like corn for high fructose corn syrup (that should not be a part of our diet in the first place) instead of small farmers that actually grow nutritious things like fruits and vegetables?

Clearly the system is not oriented towards consumers, or most farmers for that matter, but as Mr. Reich says, "superfarmers".

Sent by Lance keimig | 2:18 PM | 12-11-2007

Given soy beans are subsidized, I would like to know why it is impossible to find American grown soybeans in any supermarket? I love Edemami and it is all coming from China. This makes no sense. I would pay more for a safe American-grown crop to support our farmers.

Sent by Linda Darrah | 2:22 PM | 12-11-2007

I am an Iowan who has lived in Honduras for the past eighteen years and seen first hand the free distribution of corn that has destroyed local demand in that country for local farmers' corn. Aid agencies recently have attempted to encourage these local farmers but found the U.S. government resistent because, in addition to the subsidies you are talking about, the government buys U.S. farmer produce for free distribution abroad. It is a heartsicking example of crushing foreign competition in the name of charity.

Sent by Vince Milot | 2:23 PM | 12-11-2007

Why do we subsidize farmers? This was made concrete when the Smithfield's, Tyson's, Cargill's, etc took a stranglehold on the "free market." But for those consumers going about their daily lives numb to anything agriculturally related, all they care about is cheap food. Knowing where it came from is not important, as long as it's in a box and microwaveable. I grew up on a farm. We are diversified, certified organic, and have a closed system of livestock and crop rotations. But, too many of these big corporations have kept the politicians and the majority of consumers at bay.

Sent by David Rosmann | 2:23 PM | 12-11-2007

what about organic farmers? they do not receive any government subsidies. that is often why organic food is more expensive than non-organic, it reflects the real cost of the food.

Sent by Amy Price | 2:24 PM | 12-11-2007

We support local northern CA farmers by buying our meat only from small local orgainic farmers in a private group of 3 to 4 small families. We only buy locally grown organic vegetables from a cooperative . We give priority to all farms using dry farming techniques. As concerned and responsible citizens we openly boycott all corporate operated supermarkets, food chains including Whole foods. We encourage other families to work together to keep their local farms in business and improve their personal, community, and environmental health. It can be done with very little change in a families day to day life.

Sent by Anna Dare | 2:25 PM | 12-11-2007

Thanks for letting your first guest finish speaking! From a journalistic standpoint, it's about time. As for Mr. Reich's initial comments, his view, along with that of the IMF seems to be that we should stop working and living here, so that the third world can take over living for us. There is something basically flawed about this.

Sent by Dennis Lacey | 2:25 PM | 12-11-2007

As a historian, I try to take the long view on farming. Current subsidies for corporate farmers perpetuate the myth of the "yeoman farmer" and the "family farmer," and beguile the public into believing our tax dollars are supporting this type of traditional agriculture. Corporate farming damages the environment, promotes poor diets among the American public(corn syrup), and contributes to the poverty of true family farms all over the world.

Sent by Jan Olive Nash - Iowa City, Iowa | 2:28 PM | 12-11-2007

Why are corporations, not farmers subsidized? Why are fruits & vegetables not given more subsidies to encourage healthy eating and overall health? What role do subsidies on corn and wheat play in obesity the US?

Sent by Kevin Millar | 2:28 PM | 12-11-2007

As a young mother and college student who wants to eat a healthy diet, it is frustrating to me that prices for junk food are so much less than for fresh produce. We can't afford to eat much produce at all on our tight budget, but can buy all of the sugar, flour, rice, and potatoes (none of which are particularly nutrient-rich) we want. Does the farm bill affect this? Is there a way to fix this so that healthy foods are affordable and unhealthy foods more expensive? This might just even have an influence on the 'obesity crisis' in this country.

Sent by Liz | 2:28 PM | 12-11-2007

Marion Nestle in her book "What to Eat" on page 11 reports that "there is far too much food available [in the United States] - 3,900 calories per day for every man, woman and child in the country, whereas the average adult needs on a bit more than half that amount, and children much less.

Does this also explain why we have a growing obesity problem in the nation

Sent by Donald E. Schreiber | 2:29 PM | 12-11-2007

As a young mother and college student who wants to eat a healthy diet, it is frustrating to me that prices for junk food are so much less than for fresh produce. We can't afford to eat much produce at all on our tight budget, but can buy all of the sugar, flour, rice, and potatoes (none of which are particularly nutrient-rich) we want. Does the farm bill affect this? Is there a way to fix this so that healthy foods are affordable and unhealthy foods more expensive? This might just even have an influence on the 'obesity crisis' in this country.

Sent by Liz | 2:29 PM | 12-11-2007

I've been reading "The Ominvors Dilemma" and I have the impression that much of the farm subsidies go not to encouraging diversity in America's farms but to encourage the overproduction of certain crops (chiefly corn and soybeans). It also seems that our entire food source is rooted in cheap corn. My question is if we remove the subsidies and increase the price of corn wouldn't our whole food system collapse since it's based on lots of cheap feed for animals and raw material for processed food?

Sent by Al | 2:31 PM | 12-11-2007

Hello, I am a food eater. I grow much of my summer food, but am dependent on farmers to sustain my family.

The real problem is treating food as a commodity. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange that Mr. Naylor spoke of artificially sets prices based not on the quality of the product, but merely on how to make money.

Looking at global food production as a path to "development" has been pushed by the IMF and World Banks as strategies that result in the dependence of formerly self-sufficient peoples on cash crops.

I would like farming to be protected as a way of life. I want to know how my food is produced and that its producers have a political voice in their way of life. I would like self sustaining food policies for all nations and parts of the world. This means LOCAL sustainability first.

Sent by Suzanne REading | 2:31 PM | 12-11-2007

Can someone name an industry that is not influenced by factors beyond its control? Why is farming seen as unique in this respect?

Sent by Alex Martin | 2:32 PM | 12-11-2007

Subsidies are being paid all over the world. What is a huge disaster is the ethanol boom. PLEASE address this as it is causing all prices across the board to rise: fuel, fertilizer, feed prices, etc. Many farmers today want to grow corn for ethanol because it is easier and they get better prices than corn used for human consumption. It costs more to produce ethanol and it is not going to solve our problems. Our country is loosing our food basket. More and more food will start to come out of China.

Sent by Kate | 2:32 PM | 12-11-2007

What I don't hear mentioned when those who farm defend the subsidies is the fact that (from what I understand) it is NON-FOOD commodity crops -- corn, soybeans and cotton -- that receive the bulk of farm subsidies. What do those crops have to do with "food security" for our nation?

Sent by Susie O'Brien | 2:33 PM | 12-11-2007

Why is a family farm, or any other farm, different from some other company. We don't have subsidies for family hardware stores!

Permitting capital to flow to companies that cannot make the best use of it is to punish those which are able to do so. The free market has demonstrated the ability, time and again, to allocate capital more efficiently than government or committees of the good and great.

Stop these wasteful subsidies. No farmer need sell to giant agribusiness cheaper than the cost of production. Raise your prices if you need to - but don't expect the taxpayer to make up the difference. If purchasers or the Board of Trade won't buy, then those farmers who can't compete should move to other industries.

Sent by Preston Urka | 2:33 PM | 12-11-2007

Senator Grassley made a colossal error.

When Gerald Ford embargoed soybeans prices DID NOT fall $10 per bushel in less than a week.

Sent by Buz Livingston | 2:36 PM | 12-11-2007

There should be a cap on farm subsidies and there are too many loopholes/poorly written laws. For instance, in the small Michigan town where I grew up - population of about 10,000 - farmers are getting about 2 million per year in farm subsidies, the majority of which goes to the wealthiest farm families in town. (these top tier families clearly don't need the subsidies). Some of these top tier families are double dipping by separating the family farm and thus the husband and wife both get a subsidy. Another example - people in town where merely own land (and have a good accountant) are collecting subsidies for "not farming their land" when they never farmed the land in the 1st place. No system is in place to confirm whether these subsidies are legit.

Sent by Bridget Bohacz (410) 768-2244 | 2:36 PM | 12-11-2007

The fact left out of the discussion when discussing farm income is that 75% of gross farm income is expense. Farmers are not like wage earners who take home 65-75% of what they gross, in fact the reverse is true. Farmers work on very high risk and narrow margins. This 75% of farm income is typically reinvested locally in the farmer's community. (By the way, I am a wage earner who grew up on a farm/ranch)

Sent by Gary Bock | 2:37 PM | 12-11-2007

My wife and I purchase the majority of our produce at our local farmers market, but are there other things the average citizen can do, beyond writing a member of congress, to help support small family farms?

Sent by Aaron Weidner | 2:37 PM | 12-11-2007

I am about a month away from opening a family farm supplied restaurant north of Cincinnati, OH. Thanks for having a great American like George Naylor on your program, he has a lot of information that most Americans dont know, but absolutely should. American farmers built this country, and it is an absolute shame and disgrace to what has happened to these families over the last 100 years. We should support a total reform of farm politics and begin to actual do something structurally to support our farmers, such as limitations on unsafe imported foods. Our responsibility should be to support American family farms, not large Agri-business or other countries.

Sent by Todd Hudson | 2:37 PM | 12-11-2007

My question is why would you take the actual FARMER off the air first? You've often had three guests share the air at one time. He is the one who actually lives this conversation. I'm a bit frustrated because this is a huge part of the problem, discourse being ruled by intellectuals and politicians rather than the people the discourse affects.

Sent by Megan Bradley, Tucson AZ | 2:37 PM | 12-11-2007

Govt. subsidies support factory farming which is the most disgusting industry in this country - worse for global warming than all auto exhaust, polluting rivers and water ways, sludge, horrendous animal cruelty, the list goes on. I don't want my tax dollars going towards this BIG AGRICULTURE

Sent by bunny | 2:37 PM | 12-11-2007

I disagree with Robert Reich on many issues but on farm subsidies I agree 100% both with his analysis of the causes (politics) and the deleterious effects of such subsidies.

Sent by Jim Waddell | 2:38 PM | 12-11-2007

If subsidies are deleted then my mother would not be able to keep her farm. Without her farm she would have no income. What does she do for income, she is 86 years old? And, do we want only corporate farms in this country?

Sent by Carol Alverson | 2:38 PM | 12-11-2007

Robert Reich completely missed the point of George Naylor's comment that it's big agribusiness who really profit off subsidies. Factory farms (Smithfield, Tyson) and high fructose corn syrup processors (hello Archer Daniels Midland/Cargill) get access to cheap corn because we let the "Free market" determine the price. Taxpayer subsidies then help make up for some of that lost income to farmers. Tufts just put out a study showing that the factory farms saved $35 billion since 1997 because of below-cost feed.

http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/policy_research/BroilerGains.htm

To completely deregulate the commodity markets by eliminating subsidies would be to then allow for more cheap-HFCS junk food, more factory farms as access to cheap feed allows them to expand, and more profits to ADM/Cargill and the elimination of our remaining family farmers.

The movement is away from globalized free trade toward localized, food based system. free trade and the Doha round destroys food sovereignty and replaces it with industrial commercial farming that is enviromentally catastrophic and destroys rural livelihoods all over the world.

Sent by Farm Bill Girl | 2:40 PM | 12-11-2007

I find the farm subsidies to US farmers immoral. Such are practices are resulting in imbalances in global trade in farming.
For instance, falling cotton price and bad cotton bt seeds from companies like Cargill have resulted in thousands of suicides among Indian farmers.

Sent by Vivek Reddy | 2:43 PM | 12-11-2007

I am an economist,and have the same opinion of farm subsidies as Dr. Reich.

One of the real ironies of our farm policy is that it has a major negative environmental impact. Not only does it cause problems with runoff and pollution, but it has had a major impact on the catastrophe that is occurring in the Everglades. Sugar growers have depleted the water that would normally flow to the Everglades, causing the River of Grass to become saltier all the time. It will cost billions to restore this natural wonder.

Sent by Naphtali Hoffman | 2:44 PM | 12-11-2007

The program was very good, although it continued to focus on the "farm subsidy" section of the bill-- which is, in fact, smaller in appropriation than the portion that supports health and nutrition of the people.

Which is important-- there is a very credible line of scientific thinking in nutrition and food science that traces our national obesity epidemic to the way in which foods are differentially subsidized. Not only does subsidizing the "program crops" (and not the more healthful fruits and vegetables) result in distortion of trade, it also results in distortion of diet.

Senator Grassley's defense of the need for continuing "safety net" subsidies for farmers (with "hard cap" at 250K) sounds reasonable. But, lots of other small businesses-- take, for instance, construction contractors or stockbrokers-- do not control the conditions of the economy in which they must work. Best is a universal "safety net" that provides a level playing field between sectors.

But, must agree with Reich on this one: politics makes fairness unlikely. The short answer we use here in the (mostly unsubsidized) farming Finger Lakes of upstate NY is:

"Why are there farm subsidies?"
"Because every midwestern state has two Senators."

Sent by Krys Cail | 2:49 PM | 12-11-2007

I am a 53 year old cotton rice and soybean farmer in Arkansas. I have four absentee landords and one retired farmer landlord. Without the subsidies the profit margins would not allow us to farm these farms. Our farm practices are primarily no-till to minimum till knowing that the preservation of the soil is more important than weather we make a profit or not. We participate in the farm programs for the conservation but we would also do those things weather we are paid or not, but it was an investment of equipment and labor to protect our precious resource. Understand the direct payments are only a safety net, the counter cycle payments are related to the price of that crop. When the commodity price goes up the counter cycle payment goes down to disappearing. Corn, wheat, rice growers will not receive counter cycle payments this year. I know of no large agri-business that owns any farmland, just farmers who live and work on the farm from year to year.

Sent by Rick Bransford | 2:50 PM | 12-11-2007

Once again, NPR has facilitated a discussion of the Farm Bill that almost entirely neglects the Conservation Title. If it hadn't been for Senator Grassley's comment about CRP, I could have said that it neglected the Conservation Title entirely.

Robert Reich's position on commodity price supports has validity as it relates to farm production, but it does not apply to the spending under the Conservation Title. This title has drastically reduced soil erosion in farm country, improved water quality, and drastically improved habitat for a host of wildlife species, many of which have shown significant population declines. At the same time, it REDUCES production of subsidized ag commodities, thereby breducing expenditures in that area of the Farm Bill.

The Conservation Title allows American taxpayers to support conservation on private farm land, which has many benefits for society at large. This is especially important in relation to environmental impacts that don't have specific point sources-- pollution from nitrate fertilizers and pesticides and sheet soil erosion, for example.

Before NPR is finished with its discussion of the Farm Bill, I think you owe it to your listeners to discuss the Conservation Title. Talk to Don Young with Ducks Unlimited or Larry Schweigert with the National Wildlife Federation. The Conservation Title of the Farm Bill IS NOT the kind of subsidy Robert Reich opposes. It is the kind of federal program we will need as long as large-scale, factory farming continues.

Sent by Chris Madson | 2:56 PM | 12-11-2007

Dr. Reich may not believe in the romantic aspect of the small American farmer, however family farms are the backbone of the US. Diversification, Government Conservation plans and Corporate Farming represent the greed for control of family land, i.e. Super Capitolism. This will be the pit fall when the seven years of prosperity, turns to seven years of famine. Globe warming will require all family ingenuity, experience and environmental protection these stewards of the earth provide. Government conservation of land only means that politicians become wealthy. Economically communities surrounding this practice are impoverished. NPR need to pull its head out of the sand and support the true people that need to continue to run this nation. Mandella needs to focus on how African lands can capitolize on its potential to benefit its people instead of focusing on US policy or attempting to drive it.

Sent by Michele ladewig | 2:57 PM | 12-11-2007

We aren't we subsidizing the organic and sustainable growth of fresh fruits and vegetables that are delivered to the consumer within two days of picking? These are the kinds of farms that can't be done on a massive scale easily because of the need for so much labor to do the work. If all of Iowa were dedicated to growing fresh fruits and vegetables, it would need a population increase of millions of farm workers.

The current farm subsidizes are targeted at producing food from factories that could just as easily be using gas or coal or oil as an input if the government subsidizes were adjusted to make that profitable.

Imagine a world where there were no corn subsidies and no import tariffs; people might find that apple juice, cider, and other fruit juices were cheaper than the completely synthetic chemical factory products of Coke and Pepsi.

What if
- the farm subsidies were redirected to paying $25,000 a person to work growing and picking food crops that have absolutely no chemicals used in production, no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers, and only seeds, etc. that are used to produce the next crop, and if grown in green houses, the green houses would be totally green, using solar energy only to keep them warm, or cool.

- ditto for animal food production.

- ditto for other harvested crops like wood products. And you can cut trees without chain saws and pull the trees out without oil powered vehicles, using horses and oxen, and then cut with solar or water powered mills, dried in solar kilns.

Make the subsidy be paid to the worker at $12.50 an hour, for a maximum of 2000 hours a year. We can be sure that Senator Grassly nor any billionaire will collect much in the way of a farm subsidy, tho they might invest in farms that are totally self contained and totally sustainable that employ a lot of farm workers being paid by the government to work for them for free.

If they can find the people they need who will be willing to work for $12.50 an hour. My guess is that the experienced logger/forester or ox driver or horticulturist will demand more, but they will also be supervising unskilled workers and apprentices and figuring out how to get more value from their production.

And the workers don't need to be on the classic farm someplace remote, but easily be inside a city on roof tops where fruits and veggies are grown. Or sustainable wood from within a few hundred miles turned into high value furniture using tools powered by solar or geothermal electricity.

And allow people to earn this money starting at the age of 13, if working with a parent, or part of a school work study program, or apprenticeship, with the hour limit on a sliding scale.

And how about if the $12.50 an hour is pointedly set to not increase with inflation so that over time the subsidy will decline as the people and enterprises become increasingly skilled in operating completely sustainably.

If the point of the farm subsidies is to help the family farmer, this seems to me to be the best way to target the family farm, paying the members of the extended family farm to sustain the classic family farm.

Sent by michael pettengill | 3:21 PM | 12-11-2007

I am a Wisconsin farmer raising about 300 Holstein steers and farming about 375 ac.
The biggest problems of the farm bill are:
1. Providing government subsidies to farmers/agro-businesses whose households already have Adjusted Gross Income in excess well beyond the US average household income of about $48,000. According to the IRS data of 2004, roughly 37% of all farmers showing profitable operations (137,000/368,000)had AGI greater than $50,000; of the farming operations showing a net farming operating loss, about 40% had AGI greater than $50,000 (397,000/1,001,000). That is, more than 25% of all farmers have AGI greater than the national average household income, whether their farm operating performance is loss or profit. Further, more than 2% of farmers have AGI greater than $200,000.
What is the government doing in subsidizing farmers with AGI greater than the national household income average. That is not the purpose of government aid.
2. Roughly 71% of all farmers operate at a loss, presumably attributed to the cost of depreciation allowances and bank interest. Nevertheless, in reality, they would be operating at a loss in most years even if they had to write off all depreciation in the year of purchase and attempt to recoup those losses over the following seven years after purchase.
3. While about 40% of farmers get government subsidies, largely in the form of direct and counter-cyclical payments, these subsidies can be considered the virtual net income from farming.
4. More than 95% of farm households derive a substantial portion of their income from off-farm employment where one or both spouses work off farm, largely to cover health insurance costs.
5. The real beneficiaries of government subsidies in farming are agribusiness.
6. The best means of supporting family farming, which is rapidly disappearing as farms increase in size and become corporate investment, is to eliminate the oligopoly tolerated and effectively promoted by the government and deep-pocketed agribusinesses like Cargill, Smithfield, Tyson, ADM, etc.
7. Given the international repercussions of US farm subsidies on competing non-US farmers, from a justice standpoint the US should eliminate its heavily subsidized farm program, but under correction of the aforenoted abnormalities in farming.
8. The political demographics of farmers comprising less than 2% of the US population, and actual farmers engaged in risk-based farm operation with principal livelihood accruing from farming probably comprising less than 1% of the US population, the political will to subsidize farmers in their competing with deep-pocketed market makers where the processors receive anywhere between 98% and 40 of the product grown, can be expected to result in lack of US political will to support domestic farmers. This will naturally accellerate the demise of family farming and correspondingly result in the corporatization of farming in the US.
10. It seems that the majority of the public is critical of farmers making money on the back of ethanol and other non-agricultural markets, but the fact is that farmers are not profitable in most years, i.e., until they sell their land for retirement because they have not earned enough for retirement savings and need money to live on until they go to their grave. Their only profitable investment seems to be their investment in their land which cannot throw off enough income for survival, but can produce handsome captital gains whey they sell out.

Sent by w. michael slattery | 3:27 PM | 12-11-2007

Mr Slattery makes alot of great points. We have a question though.

That is how do we get all the Congressional delegations from the farm belt states to see his point of view? We cant even get them to do things like getting rid of the pork from the spending bills so this country can get a balanced budget so is there a way to get them to do the sensible and right thing for the farm bill?

We for one would like to see organic farmers who have to wait 5 years to be certified organic before they can sell their crops get some help during the 5 year wait.

Sent by jm fay | 4:56 PM | 12-11-2007

All fams get the reults of farm subsidies.
If all comodity (corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton)acres would be put into fruit and vegtables the price of these would be so low people would have to grow there own and the wages would be food not payment for things like teachers, healthcare and arts.

Sent by Jake | 1:40 AM | 12-12-2007

It makes no sense to support agribusiness that compounds the health care bill of the nation; individual farmers who make under a million should make a coalition with those who are environment and nutrition groups to help reverse this trend, but the political parties need to grow a backbone and a brain so that they can find candidates that help the Nation in this regard.

Sent by Dave | 9:57 AM | 12-12-2007

Subsidies that end up in the pocket of big business should be stopped, just as federal subsidies to NPR. I wouldn't mind as much that my tax dollars go into NPR's coffers if it was even remotely balanced in the views it espouses.

Sent by Marc | 7:34 PM | 12-12-2007

At the DOHA round of the WTO, in Hong Kong, the US, and other countries, (most noticeably Japan and France) agreed to end "all subsidies on agricultural products by 2013". (check it out) The US (after losing 4 times in the World court) was forced to make Cotton a"special case" and agreed to remove the $12Billion annual subsidy in 2006....So why is it still in the Farm Bill? This blatant slap in the face to the other WTO delegations prompted Rob Portman, our Bush appointed chief negotiator to quit in disgust, but there has not been any news about it in any of the media...I know that Cotton has always been "King", but the King Ranch story really was the only thing mentioned about this environmental worst case crop and nothing has been made of the rest of the story...Just saying that"Katrina" is the reason for contuing the illegal subsidy makes us look like hypocrites to poor cotton farmers around the world, after all, they have to cope with natural disasters too, but most of them can't get government to cover their
losses. We started the WTO, and we should abide by our agreements. So why are Pelosi and Fienstein backing this Bill, when we are spending a lot of money to re-mediate the environmental damage that cotton farming causes ($250Million to rehab the San Joaquin river, is just one project) while at the same time, we subsidize industrial Cotton, primarily to huge agribusiness that only grow it for the subsidy? You might want to talk about this issue, and then explain that there are other more valuable non-subsidized crops that don't require 142 different chemicals, annual plowing (leading to erosion), and that are good for the air and water.
The Corn Subsidy is another big rip off that costs way more than the ethanol that it is supposed to be making. Again, there are better non-subsidized alternatives, that sequester atmospheric Carbon at a higher rate than corn, and can yield many times more Biofuel per acre than corn.
The fact is that political back scratching and pandering to big Agro is the reason that we can't hasten the end of our dependance on foreign energy...
Want a real story? Check out
Bamboo, and alge for starters, then Bacterial Hydrogen from agricultural waste. These things are much more valuable than Cotton or Corn, but the Politicians just won't let go of the Agricultural Welfare for corporate farming. The health provisions of the bill don't do anything about High Fructose corn syrup that is the cheapest ingredient in almost every processed food, and the subsity on Sugar keeps the lid on eythanol...So check out bambooisgrass.com and start thinking about some stories that really matter, before we are stuck with more of the same from the next Farm Bill...please!

Sent by Roberto O'Roark | 3:43 AM | 12-13-2007

Despite the immediate difficulties of cutting agricultural subsidies, by continuing to support crop industries (soy, corn, cotton, rice, wheat) that can not stand on their own, we do promote inefficiency and continue to keep ourselves on a downward slide. By continuing to focus on these agricultural commodities to support the US economy, we entrench ourselves in goods that experience significantly declining terms-of-trade. As China imports our subsidized raw goods and converts them into (or uses them to fuel the production of) finished products, which they then sell back to us at an increased price, we act more and more like a third world economic entity. You can't maintain long-term national economic security selling soybeans and corn any more than you can selling bananas and coconuts.

Sent by Ray C | 3:51 AM | 12-13-2007

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