In his commentary, “Can’t feed the hungry without farmers,” in the March 26 issue, Denny Banister makes some very valid points.
His common sense reasons for continuing direct payments to farmers with one half million dollars in annual sales include:
1. Those farms produce 75 percent of the entire U.S. food supply and we will become dependent upon foreign countries for our food, as we do now for oil.
2. $500,000+ gross sales do not guarantee a profit because of input and investment costs.
3. Direct payments make up a paltry portion of USDA spending.
Now comes the “buts.”
1. We depend on other countries for oil because they are oil rich and we are not, so you can’t use that argument to frighten people to your point of view. Those large farms are agri-industries and I fear any industry that becomes too large. The tail begins to wag the dog.
2. I would have no problem with the USDA using net profit after real expenses to determine a ceiling for direct payments. However, paper expenses and creative bookkeeping could shrink profits and we are back to square one. And, the new depreciation allowances are so generous that some assets can be expensed out the year they are purchased.
3. The paltry argument doesn’t fly with percentages. When you use real numbers, we can see the real dollars that go into the pockets of wealthy farmers.
You ask why, if farming is so lucrative, we don’t have people fighting to return to the farm? My question, exactly.
Why is the family farm disappearing from the rural landscape? Why can’t a family support itself on the farm without growing into a mega-business?
Why is it that one young farmer after another is forced to liquidate while the large farms grow even larger?
You say it isn’t about favoring large farms over small, but that is what is happening and I don’t understand why that has to be.
I can’t believe that quantity over quality is the American way. I know, and surely, Mr. Banister, you know, that where there is government money to be passed around, everyone believes they are entitled.
My big concern is that if a business grows and prospers, why does it need extra help? Why can’t the business sense that put those large farms in that category be used to keep them solvent without our tax dollars?
I know we can’t feed the masses without farmers. My concern is the bottom line becomes more important than the product.
What I see among small farmers, though, is they continue to brag about their output while larger farmers tend to measure their income.
I can’t answer your question — How many Americans would go hungry if the farmers responsible for producing the vast majority of our food could no longer afford to do so? There is no answer.
You go under the assumption that large farms would suddenly fold if direct payments were no longer available to them. We’ll have to wait and see, but my thought is, not many.
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