Sylvia Smith, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, has an interesting article on farm subsidies, particularly the disaster relief program. She reports that growers and ranchers in 10 disaster prone state got more than half of the disaster relief. For example, North Dakota farmers received $1.9 billion over the same period that a comparable number of Hoosier farmers received $340 million.
The Environmental Working Group argues:
When Congress provides money to growers in the same states year after year for the same weather-related reasons, the Environmental Working Groupâ€™s president said, it encourages people to farm or ranch in climates that donâ€™t make sense for agriculture.
â€œYou have the government sending signals encouraging people to take chances â€¦ where Mother Nature is saying, â€˜Youâ€™re pushing things,â€™ â€ Ken Cook said Tuesday when his group released a report analyzing 21 years of disaster payments.
Senator Lugar has a plan:
Federal farm subsidies are already excessive, focused on only a handful of crops, and mostly go to farmers in a few states,â€ he said. â€œOver the past 10 years, farm subsidies have gone to just one out of three farmers with six percent of farms receiving more than 70 percent of that money â€“ $120 billion.
â€œAdding â€˜permanent disaster assistanceâ€™ only adds to this egregious system, targeting certain crops.â€
Lugar has proposed a different approach: a combination of federally backed insurance and tax deferred savings accounts for farmers.
â€œAll farmers could participate regardless of crop or animal raised,â€ he said. â€œThis would be a more than adequate safety net at much less taxpayer expense, particularly given the changes that are occurring from biofuels production and economies of scale.â€
We spend a ton of money on a pretty messed up farm system. Want smaller government? Farm welfare might be a rational first target, though politically it seems pretty impossible.