Monday, February 20, 2012

Controversy and Action Over Farm Subsidies

                One percent.  In terms of dollars it is the equivalent of a simple penny, but in the U.S. federal budget, even this seemingly minute sum will possibly be under scrutiny of federal budget cuts.
Farm subsidies, which represent this one percent, are intended to aid American food and fiber producers with fluctuations in commodity prices. Despite this percentage being only a small portion of the national budget; nevertheless some people believe these “farm-bailouts” need to go.
                According to an article by The Heritage Foundation, rather than just offering a consistent income for farmers, farm subsidies often go to corporation farms that have an annual income averaging $200,000.  Additionally, the article says that subsidies are often used by farmers to plant more crops, thus producing more commodities and further decreasing the prices that the subsidies were intended to offset.  Cutting producers’ aid will lead to many changes in production agriculture in the years to come.
                “Without farm subsidies marginal farmland will go out of production,” Dr. Wayne Hayenga, agriculture economist at Texas A&M University, said.  “Small family farms will become obsolete if subsidies are cut but the (agriculture) industry can survive without this land.”  Hayenga believes that agriculture will not suffer, and the nation will benefit, by cutting subsidies.  According to Hayenga, the yields from this marginal farmland is considerably lower than should be acceptable and therefore should be eliminated anyways. 
                Controversy and action over farm subsidies will hinge on whether more important figures agree with Hayenga and deem that farm subsidies are not necessary for continuing American agriculture.  With the recent failure of the congressional “Super Committee” to come up with $1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts, demand is greater than ever to find ways to cut government spending; this could lead to more people pointing the finger at production agriculture. 
                “Cutting these funds from farmers will result in fewer producers and the possibility of price–setting by the large corporation-run farms,” Kelly Head, USDA County Executive Director and Texas cattle producer, said.  According to Head, this possibility of higher food prices will affect the consumer directly and will deduct from what is currently a safe and economical food supply.  Agriscience teacher Stephen Scitern concurred with this and added that it is increasingly hard to get students interested in production agriculture.   Scitern believes that this problem will only become worse if farm subsidies are discontinued.   
                “Students don’t join my FFA program to learn about production anymore.  Taking away farm subsidies will take away one of the incentives for young people to get into farming or ranching,” Scitern said.  “The hard work required with little compensation is very intimidating without subsidies.”
                Though Head, Scitern and Dr. Hayenga differ in their views of subsidies, all agree that there is room for reformation of farmer assistance programs so that tax payers are more comfortable with the idea of aiding producers.  They all also said that even in the event that farm subsidies are completely cut from the industry, the American farmer will adapt to feed the ever-increasing world population. 
                “We’ve changed our practices a lot over the past decades with the introduction of technology,” Head said.  “And we’ll continue to evolve however necessary to provide a safe and economic food supply.”  

Blog writer: Logan Leschper

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