May 20, 2008

The Inevitable Farm Bill

After all this time, the Farm Bill has passed the House by a veto-proof margin, so the President’s threats to veto the bill are meaningless. He’ll veto and it will go back to the House, get the requisite two-thirds vote and, poof, it’s law. The Times offers up a pretty good summary.

While I’m nowhere near a Farm Bill expert, and from what I’ve read there are some good things about this behemoth, the subsidies still render this bill a stinker on par with worst CAFO waste pond. This sums it up well:

Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said: “Sometimes here in Washington, we tend to drink our own bath water and believe our own press releases. And to hear some of the debate here, you would think this is the best bill in the world and that everybody out there has just got to support it.”

This comment on a Washington Post story about the Farm Bill – from a real farmer, no less – is even better.

Government incentives are calculated against planting (no one can forsee harvests). My farm is bordered on one side by a river. The bank on my side is between 20 and 30 feet high, and my property never floods in the fall rains and none-too occasional hurricane. The bank on the other side is only about 5 or 6 feet above the average water level, and it routinely - I could even say reliably - floods in the fall. The land on that side of the river amounts to about 200 acres, and every spring, my neighbor plants it in corn. He gets paid to. It doesn't matter the floods ruin the crop every year, that the floods leave all the ears mildewed and unfit even for cattle feed. He gets paid to plant his 200 acres in corn, and so he does. I'd hazard to guess that he gets paid for the loss, too, by federal crop adjustment insurance. Nevertheless, the incentive to plant various crops adds a weight to the base cost of seed, and this cost is distributed in the yield. That means the price of this fellow's 200 acres of sacrificial corn seed gets figured into the cost of seed for crops that are actually harvested - driving my costs, and your food prices, ever higher.

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