more on farm policy from today's NY Times
I’m Ripping You Off
One measure of the inanity of our national farm policy is that you, as a taxpayer, are paying me not to grow crops here in Oregon.
Democratic House leaders have rammed through another grotesque farm bill on the assumption that the only people who will pay attention will be the beneficiaries. Let’s hope that they’re wrong, because this is a classic example of weak-kneed politicians caving in to special interests.
I grew up on a sheep and cherry farm here in Yamhill, Ore., and still have some timberland outside of town. Every year I get paid $588 not to farm it, under the Conservation Reserve Program.
That’s right: taxpayers are subsidizing a New York columnist not to plant crops in a forest in Oregon....
What’s especially dispiriting is how quickly the House Democrats under Speaker Nancy Pelosi have tumbled from idealism to cynicism. The Democrats had promised reform — but then the House leaders worried that scrapping welfare for farmers might hurt the re-election prospects of some newly elected Democrats. So they killed the reform proposals (which are backed by many rank-and-file Democrats)....
The average American family pays $320 a year in farm subsidies, through higher taxes and food prices, according to a recent study by the Heritage Foundation. And those subsidies, particularly for cotton, exacerbate poverty in Africa by depressing prices of crops raised by small African farmers.
There is a familiar trajectory when a political party takes power. At first, it brims with ideals. Then it makes compromises to stay in power. Finally, it becomes devoted simply to staying in office. Can Ms. Pelosi really have compressed this downward spiral into just six months?
President Bush had sought to place a ceiling on payments to any farmer of $200,000 per year, but the Democratic leaders have set it at $1 million ($2 million for a couple). Any time the Democrats find themselves fighting on behalf of fat cats, against a Republican White House that says enough is enough, it’s time for the donkey to kick itself in the head.