December 15, 2009 7:51AM

Hell Freezes Over (Or At Least Gets Cooler)

Well here's an interesting, if three-weeks-old, story. Apparently the North Dakota Farm Bureau's annual convention recently passed a policy calling for the elimination of all agricultural programs.  Reading between the lines of the original press release indicates that the call was part of a broad political position by the NDFB to move away from government intervention in many areas of the economy apart from farm programs, including cap-and-trade and health care:

“As people in this country expect more from the government and less from themselves, our delegates are urging everyone, including farmers, to step away from the public trough and get back to the principles of individual responsibility and initiative,” said NDFB President Eric Aasmundstad....
The only way government can get money is to take it from its citizens. We don’t believe raising taxes to pay for health care or climate change will help our country get out of our economic slump or even improve health care or the environment. And the more they take, the less we have to find the innovative solutions to the problems we face.

He sounds like a Catoite.

To what extent the NDFB's position flows through to the rest of the farm lobby remains to be seen, so hell hasn't quite frozen over yet. But this is positive news. At the very least it spells sweet, sweet trouble for long-time free trade nemesis and farm bill supporter Sen. Byron Dorgan (D), who is up for reelection next year.

HT: Chris Edwards.

November 3, 2009 10:37AM

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Mexican sugar growers want "in" on the cozy little arrangement that domestic sugar growers have here in the United States.  They have formed an alliance with the U.S sugar lobby to recommend that the U.S. and Mexican governments work to "avoid importing sugar from other countries to help boost the market between the neighbours" (full article here [$]).

This proposal is not new, of course, having previously been suggested to lawmakers' during the 2008 farm bill debate (see here). The "recommendation" was rebuffed at that time, but these people are nothing if not tenacious.

In what surely must be a contender for the "Understatement of the Year" award, the article ends with this: " Sweetener users and free trade advocates are likely to find the recommendations controversial". Someone at CongressDaily has a sense of humor.

August 19, 2009 2:49PM

Obama Administration Sides With Special Interests and Status Quo on Sugar Imports

Pardon me while I pile on the post earlier today by my colleague Sallie James about the Obama administration refusing to allow more sugar to be imported to the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week declined to relax the quotas the federal government imposes on imported sugar despite soaring domestic prices and understandable complaints from U.S. confectioners and other sugar-consuming businesses about potential shortages.

For all his talk about change, President Barack Obama has shown no inclination to pursue meaningful reform of U.S. agricultural programs. He supported the subsidy-laden and protectionist farm bill that finally passed Congress in 2008. On the eve of the U.S. presidential election in October 2008, he wrote a letter to the U.S. sugar industry reminding growers that they were one special interest that had nothing to fear from an Obama administration.

In his letter, he offered the sugar lobby this assurance:

With respect to the sugar program specifically, while it’s true I have had concerns about the program, I will commit to listening and working with you in the future to ensure that we have a safety net that works for all of agriculture.

He then went on to criticize his opponent John McCain for opposing the farm bill and voting consistently against the sugar program (or, as Obama put it, “against sugar growers”).

In my new Cato book, Mad about Trade: Why Main Street America Should Embrace Globalization, I call the sugar program “the poster boy for self-damaging protectionism.” As I write in the book,

When the program is not raising prices for consumers at the store, it is savaging the bottom line for American companies. Artificially high domestic sugar prices raise the cost of production for refined sugar, candy and other confectionary products, chocolate and cocoa products, chewing gum, bread and other bakery products, cookies and crackers, and frozen bakery goods. Higher costs cut into profits and competitiveness, putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy.

If the president is looking for good bedtime reading on why he should dump the sugar program, I suggest he go straight to pages 147, 154-55, 160-62, and 170-72.

June 11, 2009 8:59AM

Beyond Irony

Karl Rove should have been named Man of the Year at some point by the Democratic National Committee. The political consultant/Bush adviser played a big role in expanding the burden of government, convincing Bush to saddle the nation with fiscal disasters such as the "no-bureaucrat-left-behind" education bill, the corrupt farm bills, the pork-filled transportation bills, and the horrific new entitlement for prescription drugs. He also helped ruin the GOP image with his inside-the-beltway version of "compassionate conservatism," thus paving the way for big Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008.

I can understand why libertarians have no desire to listen to his advice, but I'm baffled why Republicans or conservatives would give him the time of day. Yet he is a constant presence on FOX News and has a weekly column in the Wall Street Journal. With no apparent irony, his latest WSJ column is entitled "How to Stop Socialized Health Care." Too bad he didn't follow his own advice in 2003 when pulling out all the stops to enact the biggest entitlement in four decades.

March 13, 2009 2:44PM

Not‐​so‐​COOL Rules Stoke Xenophobia

Come Monday you can thank the federal government for making food more expensive by requiring retailers to provide useless information.

On March 16, federal regulations will finally kick in that require perishable food at the grocery store to sport “country of origin labeling,” known as COOL. The rules were originally passed by Congress as part of the 2002 farm bill, but are only being implemented now because of understandable resistance from retailers.

The COOL regulations will require that all perishable food products be labeled at retail to indicate the country of origin. The regulations cover beef, pork, lamb, goat, chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and ginseng.

In a recent statement announcing final implementation, Obama administration agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said, “I strongly support Country of Origin Labeling — it’s a critical step toward providing consumers with additional information about the origin of their food.”

This is nothing but a form of regulatory harassment designed to play to anti-foreign prejudices. COOL provides zero health or safety information; foreign meat and produce must conform to exactly the same health and safety standards that apply to domestic-made goods.

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