Preserving America’s agricultural business is a noble goal. Politicians frequently tout subsidies as being necessary to preserve small family farms, an undeniably important part of our cultural heritage.
However, wealthy farmers are better able to harvest subsidies than their small farm counterparts. By giving an advantage to wealthy farmers, farm subsidies actually serve to kill small farms and make farming increasingly corporate. It is not a coincidence that since the implementation of farm subsidies, a smaller percentage of the population farms, while farmers have an average income significantly above that of the average American.
Farm subsidies are also flawed in that they go primarily to crops that follow the large business model such as corn and rice while ignoring crops that genuinely are farmed by small businesses. Farm subsidies have additional negative effects in that they cause overproduction of the crops which they go to.
For example, corn is one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the country. As a result, corn can be found in many foods and drinks that would be superior without corn. An example is the use of corn syrup instead of actual sugar in a number of products. Although corn syrup is an inferior good, its artificially lower price makes it ubiquitous in soft drinks.
Farm subsidies also hurt the country when people get paid not to grow crops. These subsidies do not necessarily even go to farmers, since people who own land which could support crops can still collect them, even if those people would not have any intention of harvesting with or without the incentives. These incentives not to farm come as the result of gluts caused by subsidies in the first place.
Although farm subsidies hurt small farmers and the economy in general, it would be political suicide for politicians to tell that to wealthy farm owners. It is therefore likely that farm subsidies will continue long into the foreseeable future.
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