Sunday, December 1, 2013

Farmers Need To Make Case For Urban Support

A Des Moines Register editorial makes the case that for the Farm Bill to get support, they need to give some things up to get urban support:
That rural-urban coalition fell apart last year when the House removed food stamps from its version of the farm bill. The legislation has also become a battleground for environmental groups that see crop subsidies encouraging reckless and unsustainable management of farmland. Consumer groups increasingly concerned about Americans’ diets and rates of obesity believe Congress should encourage production and consumption of fruits, vegetables and organically grown foods. And, while city folk might be sympathetic to the plight of family farmers, they are less so of corporate-style industrial agriculture. This splintering of views on what had been a fairly noncontroversial piece of legislation has not been lost on lawmakers from rural states, including Iowa’s congressional delegation. Yet it is still not clear that leading farm organizations in this state and in other farm states have gotten the message that they have to make a better case for the federal support they enjoy.
Every other Iowa business would dearly love to have taxpayer-subsidized price supports and insurance that protects against natural and economic losses. Farmers must make a better case for why their industry should get special treatment.
It is not enough just to say that economically stable farming is essential to putting food on the table at reasonable prices. Or that farmers are subject to potentially ruinous risks related to the weather or insects and blight. American farmers must also demonstrate in measurable ways that they are using sustainable farming practices that protect the environment and preserve the land for future farmers.
They must demonstrate that they are willing to accept mandatory conservation rules and participation as a tradeoff for asking American taxpayers to subsidize their business. That has not happened. Instead, powerful farm organizations and state leaders in Iowa send the opposite message that they expect government handouts without any strings being attached.
That attitude will no longer do. Congress is on the precipice of failing, for the third time in the past two years, to pass an extension of the historic farm bill. It is time for rural America to wake up to that possibility.
Farmers are going to find out that the politicians they put into office are so enamored of "trickle-down" economics that they are willing to sacrifice spending which goes to their constituents in order to further cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans.  You get what you vote for.

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