Opinion: “The boom on the farm”
Economics columnist Robert Samuelson outlines the recent good times enjoyed by the U.S. farmer in a column in The Washington Post this week. American agriculture, he writes, is “capital-intensive, high-tech, efficient — and now immensely profitable.”
Acknowledging that the current boom could go bust, he nevertheless argues that the time is right to end direct subsidies to farmers:
American agriculture transcends the Midwest farm belt. It also includes fruit and vegetable producers, poultry operators and cattle ranchers. But most of these others, dairy farmers excepted, are largely unsubsidized. Meanwhile, subsidies going mostly to grain and cotton now average about $12 billion annually, reports the Agriculture Department.
Begun in the Great Depression, these subsidies could once be justified as cushioning farming’s enduring insecurities: bad weather, big shifts in supply and demand, crop infestations. But most industries now face comparable uncertainties from new technologies, global markets and erratic business cycles. Congress is writing a new farm bill and is struggling with how much to trim subsidies. But why should prosperous grain farmers and absentee owners receive special treatment and windfalls? The proper level of subsidies is simple: zero.