Everyone with a word processor seems determined to kick the farmer these days. One can sort of expect the “why are we subsidizing all those wealthy farmers?” stories from the New York Times and other big city newspapers.
It is a little less fathomable when farm country newspapers start parroting the anti-farm program litany. In the flurry of articles, editorials, and TV pieces that came on the heels of the grandstanding by the Environmental Working Group in publishing its list of payments to farmers and ag-related corporations, were several stories in publications that should've known better.
One of the major Mid-South dailies decried all the money being paid to farmers, while conveniently ignoring that a substantial part of the region's economy is attributable to agriculture, and that a lot of the money that farmers spend ends up helping to support thousands of area businesses — many of which, just coincidentally, happen to advertise in that newspaper.
The latest of the let's-zing-the-farmer efforts is from an outfit that probably 99.9 percent of the population has never heard of, but which manages to get its “opinion” pieces planted in newspapers all around the country. Many smaller newspapers, usually understaffed, need to fill space and so they print these “canned” over-the-transom articles, either as outright editorials or op-ed columns, without paying a lot of heed to the content.
The Future of Freedom Foundation, which proclaims its mission “to provide an uncompromising moral, philosophical, and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government” (wow! if they'd just included apple pie and motherhood), has been distributing to publications around the country a piece entitled, “Farmers Should Get Jobs.” Written by Sheldon Richman, senior fellow at the foundation, it starts off thusly:
“It kind of makes me wonder what country I'm living in when I pick up the newspaper and read this from the Associated Press: ‘With crop prices mired near record lows, the government says farm earnings will drop 20 percent this year unless Congress enacts a new farm program or approves more emergency payments.’
“Hello? Is this free enterprise, profit-and-loss America, or have I crossed over into the Twilight Zone?”
After noting that predictions of overpopulation and food shortages “haven't quite worked that way,” he observes: “Instead of starving people and wealthy farmers…we have fat people…and farmers bellyaching about low crop prices.”
If the average working man is unhappy with his income, he can look for another job, Mr. Richman opines. “But not the farmers. They apparently have been bestowed with the Divine Right to farm. If they can't make enough to live on, they have the legal power to loot the rest of us so they can stay on the farm anyway.”
His solution: “It's time for farmers to stand on their own two feet.” And use insurance and futures markets to hedge risk. There's more and you can read it all at http://www.fff.org/comment/com0202a.asp
It does seem just a bit hypocritical that a foundation is so adamant against government/taxpayer subsidies when it enjoys tax-exempt status — in itself a taxpayer subsidy.