Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bush whacks sustainable ag

Evidently, when you blow on $5 billion a month waging war and "nation-building", boost non-war defense spending 5 percent, and slash taxes, you have to cut spending elsewhere.

Election's over; time to start lecturing the special interests about deficits. Reagan tried something like that in the 1980s, although he was lecturing about deficits even before he began his tax-cut and military-spending binge. (He ended up creating huge deficits anyway.) Now Bush II is having his go at transforming the federal government into an essentially pure military machine.

Predictibly, farm spending sustains a heavy blow from Bush's proposed 2005 budget.

The major media have all focused on the plan to cut agriculture subsidies by $5.74 billion (more than a month's mayhem in Iraq) over the next 10 years. I don't much care about that. The subsidy system is geared toward large-scale industrial farming; much of that cash gets recycled into the coffers of agribusiness giants like John Deere, and into banks in the form of interest payments from farmers trying to scale up. And the subsidies give U.S. farmers a price advantage in global commodities markets, wreaking havoc, for example, on domestic Mexican corn production. Also, the IMF, et al, hector farmers in Africa to gear production toward export, even when they can't compete on price with vast-scale U.S. farmers.

But there's no reason not to reform the subsidy system to favor small farmers looking to feed their local areas. Economies of scale, lack of local food-processing infrastructure, consolidation of wholesale buying into a few hands, rising land prices near urban areas, scarcity of markets away from the yuppie havens--all of these conspire to give factory farms an advantage over small farms.

And here's where we get to the real scandal of Bush's budget viz. farming. The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has produced a concise list of complaints regarding the proposed budget. Essentially, the president is gutting every small-farm program activists managed to squeeze into the 2002 Farm Bill.

Big-scale farmers and agribusiness interests have powerful allies in Congress, including some Republican senators in the south, who will battle to preserve their flow of D.C. cash. Who will stick up for the small farmers? Democrats?


Blogger Gritsforbreakfast said...

Where is our Gorbachev?

2/12/2005 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Perhaps rotting away somewhere in the Texas criminal-justice system that's so rigrously chronicled in Grits for Breakfast.

2/17/2005 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oops. Can't figure out how to edit within a comment. Try this link for Grits for Breakfast; the above one is bad.

2/17/2005 07:26:00 PM  
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