Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Even Rural Doesn’t Like Big-Ag Subsidies


A majority of poll respondents said that the farm subsidy system helps big farms at the expense of smaller operations. Click to enlarge.

Big is bad in rural America. Big government, big business and even big agriculture.

A poll of rural voters commissioned by the Center for Rural Affairs found broad support for smaller government and more efficient use of public funds. But the poll also found that rural voters support government programs in job training, education, agriculture and other investment in people and infrastructure.

“It’s too simplistic to say that rural is anti-government,” said Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group, the Republican analyst for the bi-partisan poll. But politicians also can’t ignore rural voters’ desire for smaller government, less regulation and lower taxes.

The poll’s findings have implications for both parties seeking to woo rural voters.

“We are brain dead when we argue that people in rural America don’t see a role for an active and engaged government,” said Bill Greener, a Republican strategist who consulted on the poll. But rural voters want more efficient government that does more with less. 

Agriculture subsidies are an example. It turns out that not even rural residents support the current ag program. The pollsters found that rural voters think the current ag subsidy system puts too much money in the pockets of big, corporate farms. “Rural Americans don’t want to subsidize big farms,” Goeas said. They’d like to maintain the current level of funding for ag programs but invest the money in smaller farms and new farmers.

The poll interviewed 804 rural voters in the Midwest, Great Plains and South from May 28-June 3. Other regions weren’t included because of funding limits. The margin of error was 3.74%.

Democrat Celinda Lake, Lake Research Partners, was also part of the poll design and analysis.

(More data is available here. This is a PowerPoint download file. Click the graphic below to enlarge.)


Survey asks the wrong questions

There is very little accurate information on subsidies in mainstream media, online, or in the farm press, so results are understandably confusing. Congress had a great New Deal Farm program, 1942-1952, with market management like other industries, and no need for any commodity subsidies.  Then they reduced 1953-1995) and eliminated (1996-2013) those programs, reducing rural incomes by about $4 trillion (2011 $). Then, starting in 1961, they added subsidies, deficiency payments, to compensate for some of it, eventually adding up to $0.5 trillion (2011 $). Ok, that's a net reduction of $3.5 trillion, down $8 for every $1 of subsidies paid back. And then they say that hasn't helped rural people much.  No, of course not.  The farm states, (represented on the ag committees,) are the biggest losers from the farm bill.  5 cornbelt states alone are down $500 billion just 1995-2010. That's net, after getting the subsidies.  So rural people aren't so happy with the overall context for getting the money?  Hmmm.  But what about the other part, not mentioned, where the lowering of rural incomes and the destroying of rural wealth and jobs creation (ie, with cheap feeds, as value-added livestock were lost to CAFOs) gave that $4 trillion to commodity buyers.  They got the full 8/8 dollars, while rural communities are down 7/8.  Let's see, so a mere 4 corporations now have 66% of the hogs that farmers used to have> Ditto, 4 poultry CAFOs have 50% market share?  What about those big farms in this article? How big are the top 4? A relatively tiny, well-under 1%. But the spin is all about the tiny "Big Ag," and not about the mega AgBiz.  How about the "farm lobby."  Well, just 20 of the biggest corporations spent 60% of $100 million in 2009 to get things their way, secretly, with farm subsidies out in plain sight to fool everyone into looking the other way.  So when will we see a survey asking how they feel about this?