The Farm Program

January 4, 2005

January 4, 2005

We're just beginning to see what I expect to be a flood of articles about government farm subsidies. In my hand I have the NY Times, December 26 (the day after Christmas). On page one is a long article critical of fam1 subsidies. "Despite the fact that farm income has doubled in 2 years, federal subsidies have also gone up nearly 40 percent over the same period." that's true, all true. Of course, the year of comparison is 2002, a terrible year for farmers. That year net farm income was a dismal 38B dollar. This year at 73.7B is the best ever. The article goes on to point out that 70 percent of the payments go to 10% of the producers. But those are the farmers that produce the food. They grow the crops. If we are going to have subsidies at all, shouldn't they go to those that grow the crops?

The farm support program in place now is far from perfect. Certainly it will be scaled back when a new bill is written. I would also expect more of the money will be shifted to conversation. However, the fan11 bill of today has kept payments fairly stable and provided help in years of low farm income. 2004 appears to be an aberration from past experience.

The debate about farm policy is getting an early start. 2005 will be all debate. In 2006, the new bill will be written. That isn't to say there won't be an attempt to trim the subsidy level this year.

Many of the farm program critics just want to lower the payment limitation level. The complaint -- "too much money goes to big farmers. Why don't little farmers get more?" I don't support severe payment limitations. Here is why. The bigger farmers are the growers that give us the most reasonably priced food in the world. If we ratchet down the payment limitation level of large farms and have no reduction for smaller farms, the support program becomes nothing more than a welfare program for small farms.

Over the past 20 years we have improved our farm programs dramatically. I am sure the next bill will take another step in the right direction.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.