Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Millions in Farm Subsidies To Manhattan Residents?

Dear Tea Party Friends,

I have a tiny little request.  Would you mind calling your favorite elected Tea Party official and ask them wazzup with these agricultural subsidies?  Seriously, they can save a bundle if they'd just take a hard look at agribusiness welfare. 

They're way more likely to listen to you than to me.

Every day on facebook you agree with me that government needs to get out of big business. You say you believe, like I do, that taxpayers should not be subsidizing profitable industries like forestry, ranching, agribusiness, and mining.

We've agreed that it might have been appropriate to subsidize those industries when the country was young - to incentive pioneers out to take business risks in the wilder, less comfortable parts of the landscape.

But not now.

So guess what? In their enthusiasm to reduce the deficit, Congress nevertheless apparently feels it is important to maintain the agribusiness subsidies at full levels. While I might support subsidies to small and medium-sized farmers working on tight margins, why do our taxpayer dollars need to support mega-corporations like ADM and other huge agribusiness interests?

Annie Shattuck, an analyst for the Oakland, California-based Institute for Food & Development Policy, told the International Business Times that, in 2009, Congress subsidized agriculture to the tune of $15 billion, with 90 percent of that sum underwriting the production of just five crops - corn, wheat, rice, soy and cotton - mainly through large farming operations. And guess what?  Most of those crops weren't even used for food!  They became animal feed and raw materials for industry. 

I can see an argument around the idea that subsidized agriculture reduces the cost of food, but... if much of the crop isn't even used for food, how does that idea hold water?  If we are subsidizing the industrial use of crops, e.g. corn for ethanol or cotton for cloth, shouldn't we let the industries internalize those costs and then let individuals decide whether they want to pay the price? 

I mean, libertarian friends, isn't this what you're always arguing?

So, I am still looking for national distribution figures, but I did find a study showing 91 percent of federal subsidies paid to North Carolina farmers went to just 10 percent of North Carolina farms - and not the tiniest 10 percent either.  And if you click here, it will take you to a lot of information about national farm subsidy distribution.

And then there's Manhattan.   Guess what?  A huge share of farm subsidies don't go to farmers.  Farmers are often tenants, but subsidies go to wealthy land owners.  According to a study of farm aid distribution by Barry K. Goodwin, Ashok K. Mishra, and Francois Ortalo-Magn, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) argued for reducing farm subsidies by noting:

"$3.1 million in farm payments went to the District of Columbia, $4.2 million has gone to people living in Manhattan, and $1 billion of taxpayer money for farm payments has gone to Beverly Hills 90210."

Can I get in on that?

# # #

Unbelievably, none of this was my original reason for blogging today. 

My original reason was to lament the passing of $247 million worth of WIC, the Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants and Children, that provides a minimal amount of food and nutrition assistance to "at risk" poor families.  These dollars are some of the best-spent federal aid ever.  Increases in prenatal care, newborn birth weight, live infant births, and more can be correlated to this aid. 

As opposed to agri-subsidies, which apparently can be correlated to Beverly Hills poolside parties.

Yes, Tea Party pals, on February 19th, your favorite newly-elected budget slashers did a middle of the night wipe out of 10 percent of "WIC," the Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants and Children. This amounts to taking food out of the mouths of about a million kids.

Given that the unemployment and underemployment figures are skyrocketing - according to Gallup poles, the unemployment plus under-employment combined has hit about 20 percent - one wonders what those D.C. folks were thinking. 

Maybe they were thinking about how to pay for the farm subsidies.  Makes sense to me.  Not.

# # #

You might want to link to the latest blog post by Environmental Working Group's Ken Cook.  This is what got me going. 

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