Wednesday, December 20, 2006

pot in every chicken

News Monday that marijuana is now pretty much indisputably the United State’s number one cash crop—an estimated $35 billion annually—instantly conjured this rejoinder in my mind: and that’s without subsidies!

The issue of farm subsidies will no doubt come up at some point during the run of the 110th Congress, and it is almost as certain that nothing substantial will be done about them.

As a preface to any further discussion, let me just state that I have nothing against the so-called family farmer. Small-scale farming is a noble and rewarding profession and provides me with a greenmarket full of delights. But small farms received almost none of the roughly $144 billion that the federal government doled out in the form of “stability payments” in the last ten years.

In fact, 73% of the federal aid goes to just 10% of the recipients—large agribusiness companies that produce beef, grain, and cotton if they produce any farm sector product at all. The purple cauliflower and stamen apples for which I cruise Union Square this time of year are almost guaranteed to be federal dollar-free.

Further, “red” states and “swing” states get a disproportionate amount of the aid. Eight states—TX, IA, IL, NE, MN, KS, AR, and ND—receive over half the money. Or, to look at it another way, three quarters of the aid has gone to just 57 of the 435 congressional districts.

While I do think there is some place for the federal government in the farm economy—to help the few independent, small farmers left and assure that the food we all need is the food that is grown, for instance—the current system is little more than the kind of corporate welfare Republicans and Democrats alike are fond of criticizing.

But just because it is criticized doesn’t mean it is likely to change. The mere fact that we have a Senate means that farm states are over-represented on Capitol Hill, and the payment distribution, as noted above, makes for some very handy political greenmail come election time.

Of course, the size of agricultural subsidies are a just a silly pittance when compared with the cost of the debacle in Iraq, but it should still be noted that much like in the case of “defense” dollars going to the Halliburtons of this world, our taxes are being used in the case of farm aid to reward large corporations with political irons in the fire.

Add to stability payments the money spent for domestic Marijuana eradication, and you have a two-pronged argument against billions of our federal tax dollars being wasted. The bumper marijuana crop shows that the war on pot has pretty much failed, just as it seems to vividly demonstrate that you don’t need subsidies to make money in agriculture.


Post a Comment

<< Home