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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Farm Subsidies: Socialist Redistribution for Wealthy Farmers?

Bernie Hunhoff, one of the few blogging types who also manages to be successful in politics (congrats, Bernie!), generally stays away from politics in his Editor's Notebook blog over at South Dakota Magazine. I appreciate that: Bernie's adventures around South Dakota help keep us sane and grounded.

But when Hunhoff does touch on politics online, he makes it count. His Monday post points us toward Michael Grunwald's Time commentary on five things America needs to get back on track. Number 5 on Grunwald's list? "A sane farm policy."

What's insane about current farm policy? Says Grunwald:

U.S. agriculture policy is a jumble, but the basic goal is simple: redistribute money to big commodity farmers. The median farmer's net worth is five times the median American's, and the top one-tenth of farmers get three-fourths of the subsidies. It's a welfare program for the mega farms that use the most fuel, water and pesticides, emit the most greenhouse gases, grow the most fattening crops, hire the most illegals and depopulate rural America [Michael Grunwald, Time, 2008.11.17; cited by bernie Hunhoff, "A Farm 'Ouch' in Time," South Dakota Magazine: Editor's Notebook, 2008.11.10].

Redistribution of wealth? Hiring illegals? Destroying rural America? Sounds like a critique from John McCain, not the liberal media.

Check out Hunhoff's post, and give some thought to whether the $307 billion farm bill really is welfare for the ag-industrial complex.


  1. Most competing countries subsidize their ag production making them very competitive in world markets. That is one reason we subsidize farmers in the US. Food is not just a commodity for world consumption, it is also a major bargaining chip. There needs to be limits on how much the largest farmers receive, so we don't see abuses such as we've seen with Randall Farms of Canistota and our local Stip Brothers.

  2. The farmers I know wish we didn't have subsidies. Anon may make an important point about competitiveness, but I don't think the Stip brothers are part of the USDA programs any longer, and appear to remain successful. Wonder how.

  3. Indeed, I don't see Stips in the Environmental Working Group database. For a list of top susbidy recipients in Lake County, click here.

  4. I'm guessing that anon 8:27 may have been referring to the Stips filing for bankruptcy a few years ago. They've only gotten larger since then and have been stepping on local farmers who are trying to acquire more land by bidding the land to record levels. They seem to be spiteful about bidding and buying more land, and Randall was their farmer. Does Randall get subsidies? If so, Stips benefit indirectly.

  5. I agree that the subsidies need to be directed more toward smaller and medium sized farmers, not the mega farmers.

    But you have to remember that the "farm bill" contains many things that have nothing to do with farming. For isntance, food stamp program.

    I wonder how much of that inflated bill actually benefits farmers. Make the farm bill truly a FARM bill and see how big it actually is.

  6. Randall Ag Ventures received $1,753,495 total in the years of 2005-2006.

    Additional figures for 2007 were not available as an accumulated amount.

    Mr. Randall is a very large farmer. Land that he rents just to the east of our home place had the fences removed from along the road so that the ditch could be cultivated for crops.

    You may have seen his name in the news. http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2008/11/03/news/south_dakota/80f6f211edf7478e862574f600157274.txt

  7. Good numbers, Anon... and ooo, good news reminder on those fraud charges! Talk about welfare queens....

  8. Cory's link showed what I thought to be pretty low numbers, ($122,000 for Randall), nothing like that later post. And then quickly down to the 20's. What's up with those numbers?

  9. That was for Lake County only.

  10. Cory,

    Based on commets from another of your posts, Randall Ag Ventures seems to be the tie in to Stip. Not sure how. If true, they received nearly $2 million betwwem 1995 & 2006.

    And we also need to add the Federal Reserve's low interest rate policy to the problem of over-priced land...and our over-priced homes.

  11. Oops, that last comment was meant for another post.


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