Tag: Department of Agriculture

Sitting in the Tall Cotton

Well, this is a start:

A House committee voted to cut off crop subsidies to growers with more than $250,000 a year in adjusted gross income on Tuesday — a dramatic tightening of the farm safety net.

The Appropriations Committee also voted to make cotton growers effectively pay for the $147 million a year U.S. payment to Brazil, the victor in a trade dispute over American cotton supports.

“It’s a great sign Congress is ready to end these subsidies,” said Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican and sponsor of the cuts. Both were adopted by voice vote. Only one dissenting vote was heard on the vote for a lower eligibility cap.

But of background. A number of years ago, to a thunderous “duh”, the WHO found that our subsidies to farmers were distorting trade markets and hurting farmers in other countries. The Obama Administration decided the best way to prevent a trade war with Brazil was not to cut cotton subsidies in this country but to subsidize Brazilian farmers too. It seems that Congress has figured out that this is monumentally stupid.

The higher limit on farm subsidies is also good and Obama really can’t oppose it since he called for the exact same thing. To be honest, I’d prefer not to have such hard cutoffs. The big agri-businesses will probably find ways around them anyway. I’d prefer to massively shrink the Department of Agriculture, eliminate all of the subsidy/price-support programs and replace them with a single program that helps struggling farmers on a case-by-case basis in times of drought or market glut. Such a program would be much closer to an insurance program than an outright subsidy and eliminate a huge number of ongoing trade disputes.

First ethanol, now subsidies. The Republicans are showing a little bit of spine when it comes to farm interests. No a lot, but a vertebra or two. At this rate, they might be able to stand up to the senior lobby within a few decades.