Tag Archives: Farming

USDA v. Horne: Farmers Fight to Keep Their Own Raisins

Zach Weissmueller from Reason.com has recently posted this article, stressing how the USDA is seeking to force farmers to pay for the very same raisins that they grow. The USDA tries to stabilize the price of certain crops, such as raisins, originally to benefit the farmers during difficult times. Now, it is nothing more than theft.

This is but one absurdity that Marvin and his wife Laura have faced during their decade-long legal battle with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Every year, the Hornes plant seeds, tie vines, harvest fruit, and place grapes in paper trays to create sun-dried raisins. And every year, the federal government prevents them from bringing their full harvest to market.

It’s called an agriculture marketing order. Depression-era regulations meant to stabilize crop prices endanger the livelihoods of small farmers across the country, but the raisin marketing order is particularly egregious.

DC PORK 101

Daniel Martin Gray has written the following piece for Watchdogwire, which talks about the new Farm Bill.

Heritage Action presented well-researched facts about the current pending legislation known as the farm bill, an omnibus vehicle that encompasses a veritable slew of entitlement entanglements and sweetheart deals, so dear to the “progressives” who currently control our national purse-strings. There is so much “there” there, that it would take 1,000 pages to detail all the pork contained, packaged to sound boring and avoid the peoples’ attention.

In brief: the Congressional Budget Office’s “scoring” of the farm bill comes to $940 billion over ten years. The last farm bill of 2008, was supposed to cost $604 billion based on initial scoring, so this new one represents an increase of 56 percent. That bill ended up costing more. But it’s worse than that.

The Lollipop War

Zoe Chace at NPR produces a great piece discussing the war over sugar policy in America.

The CEO, Kirk Vashaw, says he wants to expand the factory and make even more candy there. There’s just one thing he needs.

“Let us buy sugar on the free market,” he says.

As it turns out, there are two prices for sugar: the price you pay in the U.S., and the price you pay almost everywhere else in the world.

Taxpayer Supports for Corn Ethanol in Federal Legislation

Tax Payers for Common Sense has published the following Fact Sheet, emphasizing the problem with Corn Ethanol subsidies. The study analyzes the history of Ethanol subsidies and the current support of these subsidies on current legislation like the 2008 Farm Bill. The study also determines the Taxpayer’s cost and the Environmental cost of this form of corporate welfare and the conclusions of this form of cronyism.

“It’s time the mature corn ethanol industry survived on its own two feet without taxpayer support. After more than 30 years of federal backing, corn ethanol subsidies scattered throughout the federal tax code and farm bill energy title should be eliminated once and for all. Economic, environmental, and public health costs would also decline if unintended consequences of ethanol production were ended, benefiting drivers, consumers, and the general public.”

Rice and peanut lobbies backing House farm bill

Erik Wasson notes that rice and peanut lobbies opposed a version of the farm bill which did not include subsidies for their industry, but backed a version which did. Does that sound like cronyism?

Lobbyists for rice and peanut farmers who opposed a Senate-passed farm bill backed a draft House version on Friday.

The House draft, released by the chamber’s Agriculture Committee on Thursday, contains a new type of price-based farm subsidy included to appease rice and peanut growers.

America’s raisin regime

The Economist ran an article about the antiquated regulatory scheme for raisins in the US, and how they are being presented to the Supreme Court.

Since the 1940s raisin farmers have been obliged to make over a portion of their crop to a government agency called the Raisin Administrative Committee. The committee, run by 47 raisin farmers and packers, along with a sole member of the raisin-eating public, decides each year how many raisins the domestic market can bear, and thus how many it should siphon off to preserve an “orderly” market. It does not pay for the raisins it appropriates, and gives many of them away, while selling others for export.

Participation in this Brezhnevite scheme is mandatory…The department portrays these arrangements as anodyne efforts to set quality standards and improve marketing. But Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, a think-tank, argues that the federal government is nurturing a crop of agricultural cartels.

Unsweetening Cronyism

Rich Tucker at The Foundry blog writes about the USDA’s most recent crony consideration.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Agriculture Department may buy some 400,000 tons of sugar to prevent processors from defaulting on $862 million in loans. These loan guarantees keep prices artificially high for consumers, who are already paying far more than they need to for sugar.

This isn’t simply bad fiscal policy; it’s costing Americans jobs. “For each one sugar growing and harvesting job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, nearly three confectionery manufacturing jobs are lost,” the Commerce Department reports.

The Best Plan for Farmers and Ranchers: Free Trade

Bryan Riley at the blog The Foundry writes about the best way to help farmers and ranchers: end the farm program and open up free trade.

Congress is currently fighting over the future of U.S. farm programs. In 2011, taxpayers subsidized farmers to the tune of $10.4 billion in government payments.

Imagine if the government had a way to increase payments to farmers while reducing taxpayer subsidies to zero.
Such a policy exists. It’s called free trade.

From 2004 to 2011, U.S. agricultural exports grew by an average of $10.7 billion per year.

In other words, during the past seven years U.S. export growth boosted agricultural income as much as if the government added an entire new farm program every year.

Big Sugar Is Set for a Sweet Bailout

Alexandra Wexler writes an article at the WSJ (subscription req’d) about a possible federal government bailout of the US sugar processors industry, due to falling prices. But favoritism towards one industry comes at the cost of another, and consumers as well.

The move would benefit companies that turn sugar beets and sugar cane into granulated sweetener, a business plied by American Crystal Sugar Co., Amalgamated Sugar Co. and U.S. Sugar Corp…

Higher prices would hit food companies including candy giants Mars Inc., Hershey Co. and Nestlé SA, and could ultimately boost retail food prices, at a time when many consumers are financially stretched.

“Clearly, the USDA has made up its mind that Big Sugar is going to trump the American consumer,” said Pierson Bob Clair, president and chief executive at Brown & Haley, a confectioner in Tacoma, Wash., that makes Roca butter-crunch candy.

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