The Des Moines Register reported that Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, said farmers need a new source of income, and that 90% of farmers don’t make a majority of their income from farming, and that that is a problem. (See link below.)
It is not the government’s job to find new sources of income for farmers. The fact that a large percentage of Iowa‘s farmers have other full-time jobs is not a problem that needs fixing. With the current state of farming mechanization, working a small farm is not a full-time job. We already subsidize farmers by paying 60% of their crop insurance, regardless of size, for doing nothing special or extra. Paying farmers for “carbon sequestration” sounds a lot like paying them for what they already should be doing. What we should do is make good farming practices a requirement in order to receive crop insurance or other subsidies.
The Des Moines Register recently recently ran an editorial advising us to not buy into the idea that Iowa farmers “feed the world”. As the Register documented, “Only half of one percent of U.S. agricultural exports went to a group of 19 undernourished countries that includes Haiti, Yemen and Ethiopia.” Some farmers and their supporters have a vested interest in making sure that fellow citizens hold them in a special position because they produce the food we eat. They perpetuate that meme in order to get special treatment by our government, for example by not having to either stop or pay for polluting our waters, and by receiving a 60% subsidy on their crop/revenue insurance premiums, among many others.
Every week, most of us buy food from all over the world at our local grocery stores. It may be wonderful to be able to buy local fresh food, but it is not a necessity. International voluntary free trade is what has allowed us, and much of the rest of the world, to avoid starvation when local producers fail for any reason. Farmers should be given no more credit than other producers of all kinds of products. As Adam Smith wrote in 1776 in his book, The Wealth of Nations, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
Link to Register editorial: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/2016/10/09/editorial-dont-expect-iowa-farmers-feed-world/91735242/