Federal farm subsidies cost $14 billion each year, and they represent one of the many counterproductive expenses that ought to be cut sooner rather than later. From one of my FFF commentaries:
The subsidies, broadly defined, go predominantly for products with established industries with abundant supplies: corn, wheat, cotton, soy, and rice…
These are industry privileges, plain and simple, and beyond direct per-unit payments and guaranteed minimum prices, they include environmental incentive schemes, disaster payments, crop insurance, and marketing and data support. Proponents claim these provide a safety net and allow farmers to mitigate and manage risk. Sure, they allow farmers to mitigate risk and place it right on the backs of taxpayers.
More recently, Bloomberg News has highlighted an additional shortcoming to these programs. In propping up established, well-organized industry lobbies, they discriminate against budding industries.
Further expansion is being hampered by the federal crop insurance program designed to help farmers… Organic producers pay a surcharge on many of those policies, and payouts often don’t reflect their higher costs, which may inhibit farm development and contribute to shortages of some naturally grown products.
Unfortunately, rather than oppose these discriminatory programs, the Bloomberg article notes that many of these organic farmers are simply looking for their piece of the government largesse. Given that federal officials borrow 44 cents for every dollar they spend, such initiatives aren’t, dare I say it, sustainable.