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Some legislators would like us to believe that the days of farm subsidies are about to end, that lawmakers will cut spending and save taxpayer money. The fact is that, instead of direct payment subsidies to farmers, Congress is now considering expanding a federal crop insurance program that would reimburse for most losses or drops in prices, potential hazards of any entrepreneurial activity. If farmed land does not yield enough crops or if food prices fall, farmers would be reimbursed through a new crop insurance program, an outcome that not only will cost taxpayers billions of dollars, but will also raise concerns about incentivizing farmers to take extraordinary risks.
The new farm legislation is welcomed by Big Agribusiness, farm lobbyists, and lawmakers who typically protect entitlement programs and come up with new ones. These sectors would like us to believe that this new farm program will save us billions of dollars in direct payment subsidies that pays farmland owners regardless of whether they plant crops. However, the truth is that the new legislation will incentivize farmers to exploit land with very high risk of crop failure. At a cost of $3 billion per year, the new crop insurance subsidy will cover any losses to farmers, known as deductibles, before their crop insurance policies pay out.
In 1990, the US government defined sustainable agriculture in Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1683, as “an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term, satisfy human food and fiber needs; enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends; make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”