Saturday, February 05, 2005

Farm Subsidies

Lost in all of the histronics about a larger defense budget, Bush has proposed some smart reforms on farm subsidies. Of course, he didn't really stand in the way of a grossly bloated bill a few years ago, but he is proposing some pretty good legislation here.

The New York Times goes into this in detail, but the following quote from that article sums the up issue pretty well:

"Mr. Bush would set a firm overall limit of $250,000 on subsidies that can now exceed $1 million in some cases."

There are usually two main defenses for farm subsidies: they help ease the hardships of uncertainty that affect small farmers and they help ensure a secure food supply. Unfortunately, the farm subsidies often help more than just small farmers and much of farm subsidies end up going to large agribusinesses whose need is dubious. The existence of this agribusiness support is very popular among many southern politicians, but it also undermines general public support for subsidies since they would rather only help small, family farms. Bush proposals on this, if enacted, will end up helping to ease the budget deficits and also ensure that subsidy money is spent more for poorer farmers. It will be an uphill climb, as true economic conservatives oppose large farm subsidies but many in the Republican party support them. The security benefit of farm subsidies might be brought up, but I would bet that these large agribusinesses can handle fair competition and domestic farm production success will remain intact.

This is one of the stories that might fall through cracks during talk about about social security and foreign policy concerns but here's to hoping that this proposal will succeed.

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