As U.S. farmers begin to gather in Nashville this weekend for the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting the organization is responding to recent commentary about farm subsidies. Mark Maslyn, AFBF Executive Director, Public Policy, says big city newspapers just don’t get that those subsidies are not just about farmers but consumers and stable prices too. Maslyn (pictured) responded to a Washington Post opinion piece by Robert Samuelson, who argued for an end to subsidies.
“I think Mr. Samuelson misses the point that farm programs when they were first put in place more than 70 years ago were there for the consumer,” he said. “They were there for the public, not necessarily for agriculture, and they’re based on production.”
And they’re based on prices which farmers don’t control since they don’t control the weather like last year’s drought. Samuelson writes farmers aren’t unique. Other industries also face big challenges.
But Maslyn counters, “If you’re manufacturing widgets and supply and demand got out of balance you curb production, or you increase production as the case may be, or you can increase the price. Farmers have historically been challenged by being price takers and not price setters.”
Maslyn says Samuelson and other columnists, and because of them, many in the public, don’t understand agriculture.
“There is a general lack of understanding about agriculture, how food is produced, and I think it’s important that we continue to try to educate the public and those pulic opinion shapers.”
Samuelson slams subsidies when the number of small farms is down 70-percent since the 1930s, but misses the huge growth in farm efficiencies and production. He laments that grains get subsidies, while meat is largely unsubsidized – but ignores that livestock eat grain to make meat. Maslyn agrees the role of the federal government in agriculture needs to change and he points out it is changing.
“I think the committee has put forth proposals that would do that but there’s clearly more risk management in the House and Senate bills that were moving through in 2012, and I think that theme is going to continue.”
And Maslyn says there’s clearly less money.
Source: NAFB News Service