Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Farmers farming

All sorts of juicy little bits about the infamous Farm Bill in a "NEWS ANALYSIS" from the NY Times (pun entirely unintentional).

Not to get your hopes up, so I'll just say it right now: no big changes for the farm bill. The mammoth thing is $300 billion and covers five years (!!), and it ends up in the low single-digits as a percent of federal spending. However, the ramifications are huge: payments to farmers encourage the planting of certain commodities, much of which is used as animal feed. So, farmers of wheat, soy, corn, rice, animals, and even tobacco receive lower prices, which inevitably (given the finite nature of the world) leads to higher prices for literally everything else in the world, but mostly for unsubsidized foods: fruits and vegetables. Oh yeah, and there's that whole food-pricing-shooting-through-the-roof and agribusiness-making-huge-profits thing. But hey, maybe they really need the money!

One of the bill's defenders, Sen. Tom Harkin of Dakota, comes up with the entirely unconvincing argument that "expecting the huge farm bill to address current challenges is like asking a farmer to go out and grow corn for tonight’s supper." To me, the fact that it's so difficult to change the farm bill (uh, why would it be so difficult, anyway?) would seem to be more of a reason to start now, rather than wait. "The senior Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Viriginia" blames it on the Democrats with their ethanol – definitely partially their fault, but it's amazing that these people can use the "what he's doing is worse" argument with a straight face, as if your duty to the nation depends on how well someone else is doing their job.

Rep. Kind, who obviously never got the memo about how governments work:

“It really is astounding,” said Representative Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, who has pushed for broad changes in farm subsidy programs. “It’s as if this farm bill is being negotiated in a vacuum.”

Astounding? More like par for the course. Oh, and your candidate for change? He issues incredibly misleading communiqés in which he hopes you'll confuse millions and billions, all the while being a big backer of farm subsidies' evil twin: ethanol subsidies.

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