Farmers Starting to Resent Strings Attached to Subsidies

Earlier this week, farming and some conservation groups announced that they had come to a deal to link eligibility for crop insurance premium subsidies to compliance with conservation measures. In return, in one of the great sell-outs in modern times, the conservation groups agreed not to push for payment limits or means testing on farm subsidies.

But it seems that the new link between conservation and government support for crop insurance has angered the House Agriculture Committee Chairman, Frank Lucas. From the DTN Ag Policy Blog yesterday:

Lucas, a Republican from Oklahoma, told DTN off the House floor Wednesday that he has a philosophical problem with various lobby groups “tying strings to how farmers farm” and dictating terms to producers when the farm bill is supposed to be about raising food and fiber.

“My perspective has always been, very sincerely, if a farm bill is about raising food — and I know 80% of it now is about making sure people have enough to eat, helping them buy their food — but if it is about raising food, farmers should have the tools to raise the food and fiber,” Lucas said. “And if you engage in whole series of things, such as you can’t get crop insurance unless you plant in a certain way, on a certain day, in a certain direction, or you can’t access a variety of other programs, then we aren’t having a farm bill that helps farmers raise food and fiber, but we have a social tool here that’s used to direct how farmers use their lives and conduct their business.” [emphasis added]

You’ll excuse me if I am having trouble summoning much sympathy for your special interest friends, Mr Lucas. It’s just that I feel that having to accept inconvenient conditions should be expected when you suck at the government teat. The Farm Bill was designed as a social tool, and you and your colleagues over the years have added more “social tools” like food stamps, environmental programs and energy subsidies in order to secure sufficient votes for your pork. Complaining now that all these other people are ruining your party is, to say the least, a bit rich.

If farmers don’t want to be directed on “how [they] use their lives and conduct their business,” then I suggest they start sending their cheques back. Ending farm programs will truly Free the Farm.