If you look up the word “perversion” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of the federal farm bill.
Well, not really, but the bill should be there, for this massive subsidy program has become a total perversion of what it was meant to be – and should become again. The New Deal concept (still valid today) was to support the public interest in having an abundance of good food produced by healthy small farms that, in turn, strengthen rural communities.
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Instead, today’s crop subsidy program pumps billions of our tax dollars into the corporate coffers of agribusiness giants that neither need nor deserve public support. The small guys? Two-thirds of American farmers get zero – not a penny – from a program passed in their names. Even those small producers who do receive subsidies get only a pittance – the bottom 80 percent of recipients average only $704 in payments. Meanwhile, guys in suits – the corporate operators – harvest the bulk of the payments.
“You don’t have to sit on a tractor seat, visit the tractor seat, you don’t even have to be alive to get a fixed payment,” points out one watchdog group. In fact, in recent years, 170,000 dead people have been paid more than a billion bucks in farm subsidies.
It’s time to return America’s farm program to its roots. There should be a safety net to protect real family farms from price manipulations and tough times. And the central focus of the program should shift to helping small farmers make the transition to organic and sustainable production, sell directly to local markets, form marketing co-ops, convert to energy and water-efficient systems, conserve land and natural habitats, and develop locally-owned processing businesses.
To help restore some common sense to the farm bill, call the Environmental Working Group: 202-667-6982.
“The Debate Over Subsidizing Snacks,” The New York Times, July 4, 2007
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