Even though the country is experiencing its worst drought in decades, farmers as a whole are much less vulnerable. In-depth reporting by Reuters found “U.S. farmers face this drought in their strongest financial position in history, buoyed by less debt, record-high grain and land prices, plus greater production and exports.” The report speculated that thanks to a variety of federally funded insurance programs, “some lucky farmers…may even come out ahead of last year.”
According to the Washington Post, those federally funded insurance programs cover “more than 80 percent of farmland planted with major field crops — at least two of which, wheat and cotton, appear pretty much unaffected by the dry weather anyway. Dairy farms are the least likely to be in drought-ravaged areas, the USDA reports. And many of them enjoy federally subsidized insurance against rising feed costs.”
Of course, the “amen chorus on Capitol Hill” has another angle: livestock!
But Taxpayers for Commonsense (TCS) points out that since the livestock-specific disaster programs expired in 2011, producers “went into this year knowing they might not be renewed” and could have planned appropriately going into 2012.
How could they have planned for this? The Washington Post (again) explains, “farmers should have to hedge as other businesses do: by diversifying their product lines, purchasing insurance at market rates, leveraging assets or maintaining cash reserves.”
Oh, TCS also points out those livestock producers “still qualify for taxpayer subsidized crop insurance policies addressing declining market prices and gross margins or enroll in a non-insured assistance program.”
All this drought-induced hysteria hides two other important facts: 1) the House and Senate farm bills would actually INCREASE crop insurance subsidies and coverage; and, 2) nearly 80% of the farm bill is not about farms, but rather food stamps! According to The Heritage Foundation, the food stamp program has grown from $19.8 billion in 2000 to $84.6 billion in 2011.
The Washington Post is right to conclude, “For decades, federal policy has been training farmers to depend on government instead, and taxpayers have been picking up the tab.” That argument extends to food stamps and beyond, into almost every aspect of government. Government dependence is unaffordable and culturally corrosive, and it is time Washington lawmakers understood that.