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Federal budget woes will impact farm program

November 11, 2011
Gary Andersen, Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

Minnesota and Iowa definitely are states that benefit from the federal farm program. How they do so is different than you might think.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does pay out money to farmers in commodity programs, in crop insurance and through conservation programs. But this represents just 18 percent of the department's budget.

Another 8 percent goes to ag research, rural development, energy and forestry.

But the vast bulk of funding (74 percent) goes to food stamps, school lunches and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

With the federal government facing a massive deficit crisis, we can expect major changes in the way the federal farm programs works, and in the amount of federal dollars that will be available to farmers and others living in our states.

How should we view these changes?

Well, there is certainly a valid school of thought that says farmers should have to confront the realities of business just like their urban neighbors. The federal government has tried before to wean agriculture from subsidies, only to see them restored when times got tough on the farm. Yet massive subsidies are going to major corporations involved in farming. We can't see how this makes sense. We believe one simple reform would be to eliminate subsidy payments, while still providing some kind of insurance system, so farmers are not wiped out when their crops are.

The bigger issue in all this, of course, is whether Americans are willing to cut food aid to moms and their children. If the federal government can no longer afford these programs, perhaps its first step is to retain a coordination function while turning over the bulk of the effort to the states, which could experiment with options to see what works best.



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