Q. Why are the bills on farmers’ feed caps rounded?
A. So they fit inside the mailbox as each farmer roots around for his government check.
Old joke — and a useful reminder of how subsidy-dependent agriculture has become. Scott Faber, writing in The Washington Times, barrels right into the subject:
From 1995 to 2010, taxpayers provided nearly a quarter-trillion dollars in subsidies to farm businesses. Only one-third of America’s farmers grow crops that are even eligible for these subsidies, and the top 10 percent of these operations collected 74 percent of available funds. More and more farm payments are being delivered as premium subsidies for farm insurance policies. As more farm businesses purchased government-subsidized insurance, the cost to taxpayers has exploded: from $2.4 billion in 2001 to nearly $9 billion in 2011.
So the joke doesn’t quite limn the nature of today’s agribiz subsidies, which tend to be concentrated in the bigger businesses, not the more sympathetic “family farm.”
Faber notes that, today, as profits rise so do discoveries of insurance fraud . . . and yet farm lobbyists now trot out subsidy extension packages, even to the point of erecting new entitlement programs.
Just what we need, an even more dirigiste agricultural policy.
Faber proposes to cut back on covering farmers’ “shallow” losses — cover “deep” ones only. Move away from an agribiz “entitlement” system. Help reduce the federal deficit, not pile up more bushels of debt. That’s a start, at least.
Certainly, something must be done: Farm legislation is up for renewal this year.
But will Midwestern politicians wearing feed caps dare cut back?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.