January 9, 2011 | Commentary on Agriculture, Budget and Spending

Reform Farm Subsidies

Farm subsidies are outdated, unnecessary and unaffordable. Some suggest the farm economy cannot function without subsidies. However, nearly all subsidies go to growers of just five crops: wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans and rice. By contrast, fruit, vegetable, livestock and poultry operations receive nearly nothing, yet produce two-thirds of the farm economy, with stable prices and healthy incomes. Why can't the Big Five crops function in the same free market? Others assert that subsidies alleviate farmer poverty. Setting aside the Norman Rockwell imagery, farm subsidies are America's largest corporate welfare program. Congress targets most subsidies toward large commercial farmers, who report an average annual income of about $200,000 — well exceeding the national average. The real problem is that farmers' incomes fluctuate due to crop and weather unpredictability. This can be solved inexpensively with Farmer Savings Accounts and improved crop insurance. Government-wide spending reforms are needed to balance the budget. Farm subsidies deserve no special exemption.

Brian Riedl is Grover M. Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Brian M. Riedl Grover Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs
Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies

First appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution