America’s agricultural policies are notoriously crazy. The federal government subsidizes one crop while discouraging its use at the consumer end. The old New Deal program of paying farmers not to grow crops is still in place. The high tariff on sugar artificially increases prices far above the world price.
To compensate, the federal government helped develop a refined sugar substitute, high fructose corn syrup — an even more “sugary” sugar — and then infected nearly the whole food supply with it.
So, some sympathy for the “locavore” movement, the folks who believe we should eat foods grown in the areas we live. It seems more natural. Less goofy.
But it’s also a lot more costly, considering that buying locally tends to forsake gains from trade.
So a law to prop up locavore production and consumption, like the legislation introduced early in November by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), cannot help but shuffle two steps back for every misstep forward. Basically, it’s about more subsidy, including $30 million for “Value-Added Producer Grants,” $15 million for “farmer food safety training,” $90 million for something called a “Specialty Crop Block Program.” The least obviously bad part would direct the “USDA Research, Education, and Extension Office to coordinate classical plant and animal breeding research activities,” though I don’t see why farmers can’t manage this on their own. This is the Age of the Internet, after all, of Information.
Congress: Forget it; repeal current agribusiness subsidy and protectionism, instead.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.