Farm aid gone bad

The United States’ continued practice of doling out farm subsidies is misguided at best.

We all know that Old MacDonald had a farm, but that’s not where the story ends. It turns out that he was also taking advantage of a crooked system and taxpayers were footing the bill. Farmers across America are given taxpayer dollars as part of an archaic program developed in the 1930s. These farm subsidies, while well-meaning, have excessively rewarded large farms while robbing taxpayers.

Farm subsidies began during the Great Depression to protect farmers. Subsidies were given to farmers to ensure they were always getting a decent price for their crops. Initially, wheat and cotton were the only crops covered by subsidies, so many farmers switched to these crops to ensure they would make a decent living. Thus began the misguided farm subsidies program.

From top to bottom, the program is filled with nonsense. One of the greatest failings is its emphasis on only a few crops. Farmers growing wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, rice and peanuts receive over 90 percent of subsidies. Many other crops are not eligible for subsidies. To make matters worse, the money doesn’t usually benefit small, family farms. Growing larger quantities of crops entitles a farmer to more money, so large farms stand to gain more.

In spite of the program’s deficiencies, the government has refused to reform the methodology and it is costing taxpayers. Over the last ten years, $172 billion has been spent on farm subsidies.

In the past six years, Congress tried to reform the subsidies by providing farmers with crop insurance. The initiative fizzled out, but today many farmers are collecting insurance and government subsidies. North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Texas have received $3.8 billion in subsidies over the last decade and they also collected $5.6 billion of crop insurance in the same period.

The current arrangement with farmers is completely defunct and needs to be dismantled. Farm subsidies should be replaced with insurance that doesn’t discriminate against small farmers or favor select crops. If subsidies don’t change, Old MacDonald will continue to sing E-I-E-I-O, all the way to the bank.