Farmers Don’t Cease to Exist When Washington Backs Off

According to a recent report by U.S. News and World Report, farmers and cattle ranchers are a lot more independent than Congress would have you believe.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are plenty of farmers who gladly except taxpayer funded handout when Washington offers them.

But some farmers’ remarks indicate that they really just don’t need this help.  For example:

“I think most of us are moving on with the thought that Congress is not going to be our savior,” says Leon LaSalle, a Montana rancher. “As ranchers, we take heavy blows and then put our boots on when the sun comes up and go back out.”

Congress does not need to coddle farmers.  There are many different ways farmers and ranchers can manage risk – from futures contracts and hedging, crop and other enterprise diversification, liquid credit reserves, to private insurance – to prepare for bad weather and disasters themselves, without the help of their fellow taxpayers.  Heritage notes:

Farming is risky, to be sure, but so are many entrepreneurial endeavors. There also are rewards to balance the hardships. Government policies that cushion farmers invite risk-taking by shifting the costs of failure to taxpayers.

Sadly, many in Congress don’t understand that.  They just want to coddle them, as they do with so many other Americans.  The question about the farm bill is how much of it is truly necessary?

Jess Peterson, the executive vice president of the U.S. Cattleman’s Association said:

They just get the work done.  We try to get them engaged, but if these ranchers waited on Washington, those cattle would never get moved, those cattle would never get hay. They are not going to look over at those members of Congress and say they are breaking their promises, but as their spokesman I will.

Mr. Peterson and others like him are not considering the astronomical – and unjustifiable — cost to taxpayers that the farm bill has been for decades.  Billions of dollars have gone to waste. Moreover, it is predominantly large, technologically advanced farms that receive the biggest handouts:

About 75 percent of larger farms with incomes of $250,000 to $999,999 receive government subsidies. Only 24 percent of small farms with incomes from $10,000 to $249,999 get them.

We’ve made this case many times before, and we’ll continue to do so as long as the farm bill remains a threat to taxpayers and consumers.

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