A Dean plank I can support
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By jank - Last updated: Thursday, August 14, 2003 - Save & Share - 2 Comments

“Limit”:http://www.forbes.com/markets/newswire/2003/08/13/rtr1057071.html subsidies to family farms.

Hmm. May actually have to go check him out.

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2 Responses to “A Dean plank I can support”

Comment from etrigan
Time August 14, 2003 at 4:00 pm

This is exactly the kind of moderate field I like to play in. Government needs to find a balance of providing welfare and opportunities to the truly unfortunate and letting large businesses (and the undeserving) fend for themselves. Government subsidies to large farming business and trade agreements with foreign countries have contributed to a lower-cost of food for the USA (which is awesome) but the government needs to recognize the damage they’ve done to small farmers.

As the second generation of non-farmers in a family full of farmers this hits close to home for me. Small farmers are a dying breed. Almost every family farmer is bankrupt and simply waiting for the day when their house of cards collapses on them. Most conservatives would say the governemnt was giving these guys a hand-out (and then turn around and bail-out a multi-million dollar airline). It wasn’t poor planning on the part of the family farmer that put them in this plight.

(sidenote: after discussing with my Dad, somewhere in the neighborhood of $30k net/$60k gross per household seems like a good place to start setting the limit. this is a reasonable amount to run a household on, so anyone making less should be provided enough to get by.)

What I think is needed in addition to propping up family farms (for the time being) is providing opportunities for the families to find new occupations. Primarily this should come in the form of scholarships for sons and daughters (or even adults!) of farm families who want a higher education and the program should probably encourage them to get degrees in something other than agriculture (or at least a BA in association with agriculture.) My father didn’t gain any family love when he decided to go to college and get an engineering degree. (He may be telling tall tales, but he says the pool hall helped pay his way through UofArkansas.) It was a struggle for him to change his way of life and his first decade after college, with a wife and children, was spent striving to provide a good home and have food on the table. He did a great job, but it is solely attributable to his determination to do right by his family. Not everyone can see their way clear to escape the comfort of their upbringing and the government should recognize people who are willing to make this effort.

Comment from jank
Time August 14, 2003 at 4:42 pm

Subsidies to large farms are going to die in relatively short order. Not so much due to political motion in the US, but due to WTO action against both the US and the EU. How can the third world compete against both high tech farming methods and government subsidies? Unless we’re willing to ditch even more international agreements, I don’t think the federal government’s going to be able to bail out family farms. (On an entertainment level, I can’t wait for this debate – WTO vs Farmers – play out in the congress.)

My family gave up farming at least three generations ago, but I was fortunate enough to live in pretty rural situations while growing up, and to know many farmers (mainly because my dad was always volunteering to help out any farmer he met in exchange for permission to wander around and kill things during hunting season). I’m also a fan of the general idea of the family farm. Kind of synonomous with freedom IMO.

However, I’m growing hopeful that the market will save the small farm. Things like the Slow Food Movement, an embrace of organic foods, and a growing demand for free range flesh play to the strengths of family farms, and warrant a premium in the marketplace. The biggest hurdle that the small farmers need to get over is in getting their produce to market, which could be another opportunity for the market to work its magic. The ability to find local food in even large supermarkets, and widespread availability of organics is one of the things I miss about the NorthEast.

For the second part of your piece (well done, BTW), here’s a pet idea I’ve been sitting on for much of my life. As you know, I’m not much of a fan of government programs in general; IMO even many of the ‘job’ programs are in reality make-work programs that don’t benefit folks much.

However, I’d love to see the feds bring back the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps, or some such nonsense). I love going to state and national parks with CCC projects in them. Typical construction is native stone and large timbers, clean, functional lines, and open spaces. The sad part is that many of these 70 year old structures are finally falling into disrepair.

Tons of upside from this kind of project, as far as I see. Actual, useful skills that sell for big bucks such as stone fitting and general contracting. Much needed repairs, upkeep, and new construction for public park lands which are seeing higher traffic every year. And the opportunity for folks who may not have had a chance to experience nature to understand why conservation is important. It wasn’t all fun and games, but it’s better than the cycle of poverty and crime.

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