The new federal farm law could eventually infuse $190 billion into American agriculture, but there were no popping champagne corks or ticker tape parades to celebrate a political victory that at best left farmers alive, but badly battered from a bitter, contentious and unnecessary political battle.
American agriculture won what it needs to survive — for now — in a world marketplace littered with its own sacrifices laid on bargaining tables by its own government in the name of world peace.
American farmers can struggle on, trying to sell its commodities, undercut by their own government's monetary policies that make it easier for America's competitors to make a profit than for Americans producers. The farm law is a survival mechanism.
Make no mistake: there were victors. They are American consumers. They just don't know it. They're too busy to notice while enjoying the cheapest, safest and most nutritional food supply of any citizenry in the world.
Instead, those very consumers now believe that American farmers will be getting rich feeding at the public trough. Farmers can thank many for that perception in the wake of the farm bill battle.
The Environmental Working Group for one.
Another is a farm state senator, Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, who almost undermined a farm program that pours billions of dollars into his own state's economy. More than 167,000 Iowa farmers have received almost $9 billion since 1996 in farm subsidies. By comparison only 34,000 big, bad corporate California farmers received $2.7 billion during that same period. California agriculture's annual ag income: more than $27 billion.
Iowa: $10.1 billion. Someone explain to me why Grassley was on his soap box?
Grassley's antics were typical of the political wrangling that not only left farmers hanging in the wind through the spring planting season, but also created a nightmare farmers now face trying to regain credibility lost amid the games played by self-serving politicians. It was ironic that some of the most cantankerous politicians in the farm bill debate were from heavily agricultural states.
California farmers made great strides earlier in their bipartisan effort to win a $100 million state tax relief package. Now the same group that won that victory by being honest and straightforward with urban politicians now have to go into those same offices carrying the public relations nightmare called the federal farm bill. They had better throw their hat in first, or it may get shot off their heads.
They have to explain that if American farmers had access to free and open access to world markets and a supportive American monetary policy, the most any single producer could receive under the $190 billion federal farm law would be $40,000 — not millions, not hundreds of thousands, but $40,000 annually.
All the rest of the money in the farm law is designed to allow farmers to compete in a world marketplace — not to make farmers wealthy, but to allow American agriculture to exist so it can continue to feed Americans.
The farm law may be called a victory, but it was only a bittersweet one. Unfortunately, it may have done as much to erode American consumers trust of U.S. agriculture as it did to help farmers.
e-mail: [email protected]