Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Farm subsidies not necessary, should be eliminated to cut federal deficit, economic columnist says

"Symbolic of the debate we're not having about government's size and role, the essence of the deficit problem, is the future of farm subsidies," writes economic columnist Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post. Subsidies cost the federal government about $10 to $15 billion a year, but "don't do much good," Samuelson contends. He says they don't help small farmers, and farm income is at record highs without subsidies.

Farm subsidies were created in the 1930s as a response to instability caused by floods, droughts, pests and market swings, but Samuelson says this is no longer the case for farmers, whose jobs have been vastly improved and made more efficient and reliable by technological advances. "Government support for agricultural research and food safety can be justified. But direct subsidies to farmers can't," Samuelson writes. He says subsidies qualify as "low hanging fruit" in cutting spending, but "what's instructive is that no one is doing it."

Instead, he writes, Congress plays a "shell game" of retiring subsidies when they aren't effective and replacing them with similar programs under different names. "In Congress, ending subsidies is unthinkable," Samuelson writes. The Senate's version of a new Farm Bill would end direct payments to farmers, but the combined cost of direct subsidies and crop insurance would still average about $14 billion annually from 2013 to 2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Meanwhile, no one is asking whether or not these programs would be created today or why there's a need to subsidize farmers who are making record profits, Samuelson says.

Farm subsidies are a leading indicator of Washington's larger problem, Samuelson says: "We no longer have the luxury of carrying marginal, ineffectual or wasteful programs. We can no longer afford subsidies for those who don't need them or, at least, don't need so many of them. . . . If we can't eliminate the least valuable spending, then we will be condemned to perpetually large deficits, huge tax increases or indiscriminate cuts in many federal programs, the good as well as the bad." (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let me guess. He thinks his food comes from the grocery store. No doubt, farm subsidies should be cut considerably but there needs to be some kind of floor in the event of catastrophic losses over several years that could result in loss of farm commodities to our food supply. I'm thinking of the decade of drought that resulted in the Dust Bowl and the multiple year droughts in the 1950s and 1970s. If forced into it, my husband and I could harvest enough wildlife and grow enough food to stay alive. Most urbanites could not.