Congress Fails Farmers and Taxpayers with its Farm Bill | Citizens Against Government Waste

Congress Fails Farmers and Taxpayers with its Farm Bill

The WasteWatcher

President Nixon’s secretary of agriculture, Earl Butz, once said in 1973, “get big or get out.” He enthusiastically urged farmers to buy up their neighbors’ land. Since then, American agriculture policy has enabled big industrialized farm businesses to triumph over smaller family farms. Big businesses usually receive larger subsidies, so the most powerful farming operations are rewarded.

Earlier this year, on March 15th, the U.S. national debt surpassed $21 trillion. This is more than America's annual economic GDP output. The last time the debt-to-GDP ratio was more than 100 percent was in 1946, when the country had to pay for World War II. This present economic crisis makes a considerable argument for a commonsense roll back of crop insurance subsidies for multi-millionaire corporate farms which don’t need taxpayer money.

The crop insurance program has turned into a huge taxpayer-funded gift for the biggest corporate farms.  In a time of record deficits and an incomprehensible $21 trillion in debt, this program is no longer defensible in its current form.

For the last decade, institutional investors have been buying up farmland across the country. Hedge funds, college endowments, and pension funds are all investing in farmland at an alarming rate. Owning farmland has become a new asset class, and potential new family farmers are being priced out of the market before they can ever get in. An increase in farmland price and rents has had a detrimental impact on new and young farmers. 

This is especially troubling because the average age of farmers in the United States is 59 years-old, and many will be retiring soon. A record amount of land is set to exchange hands. The American Farmland Trust estimates around 400 million acres will change hands in the next 20 years. Policies in this Farm Bill almost guarantee that a majority of those new owners will be the biggest corporate farms owned by multi-millionaires, billionaires, and hedge funds.

Farmland is an asset with limited supply, and it has become a good investment for the wealthy. In the U.S. alone, farmland currently represents a $2.5 trillion market with historically high returns and low volatility. According to the 2018 Global Food and Agriculture Investment Outlook supplied by Valor Advisors, between 2005 and 2017, the number of global investment funds specializing in agriculture assets jumped from 38 to 446, with current assets in excess of $73 billion. Farmland is a tangible asset that will always sustain a level of intrinsic worth, but the policies of the Farm Bill are encouraging the mega-rich to buy up all available farmland.

Bad policy decisions that are being preserved in this new Farm Bill have encouraged farms to grow larger. There are fewer small family farms and fewer sustainable rural communities because of Congress.