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Competitive Farmers Want All Farmers to Compete

The nation’s byzantine farm subsidy program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, is neatly summed up in a story by Carolyn Lochhead in the San Francisco Chronicle.  She quotes California cotton farmer Philip Bowles:

The government has decided in their wisdom to encourage production of crops the market doesn’t want . . . [i]t must make political sense because it certainly doesn’t make economic sense.

According to the Lochhead’s reporting, the lion’s share of crop subsidies wound up helping the largest farmers — this despite a year-old government reform effort. A total of $403 million went to California various farmers.

Aside from the outright waste and subsidies for already wealthy growers, the real rub in California is that the subsidies encourage the planting of water intensive crops on arid land. According to the story, “Most California farmers, who grow mainly fruits and vegetables, do not get direct subsidies from the Depression-era programs, which remain largely targeted at grains, cotton, dairy and a handful of smaller crops.”  But then without those crops, maybe California wouldn’t need billions of dollars in other federal subsidies — the ones devoted to massive water projects.

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