Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Get Rid of the Dept of Agriculture

If you can't rid of the Department of Agriculture, then you can't do anything!  (Unfortunately, Congress and the President will continue to prove that they can't do anything!)

For example, consider the Department of Agriculture. Why do we even have a Department of Agriculture? It doesn't produce food — farmers do. It is not mandated by the Constitution, and many of its activities might be unconstitutional. For fiscal 2013, it is estimated that the Agriculture Department will spend about $155 billion and make loans of another $22 billion and additional loan guarantees of $34 billion.

The biggest single item in the Agriculture budget is food stamps and other food subsidies ($110 billion). These are welfare payments. Shouldn't they be under the Department Health and Human Services?  SNAP is a good idea, but typically eligibility has crept up so that even middle class families can qualify now.  The program was originally intended for the very poor.

The next biggest items are the farm subsidies ($29 billion). Why are we subsidizing farmers? They have much higher than average incomes and much wealth in land and equipment, and most of our food is grown on large farms. Some 70% of the agricultural subsidies go to large corporate farms.

They used to say we need to preserve the small family farm. There are very few of these left — and many small farms are hobby farms owned by people who have other sources of income.

Why do we have a $5 billion subsidy for ethanol??  At the height of last summer's drought when food and corn prices were soaring, do you think the Dept. of Agriculture or the EPA would temporarily limit the use of corn during the crisis?  NO!!  They can't do anything!  There's no one with any common sense in Washington!  There's literally no one in charge!  There's not one ounce of management in Washington!!  

We have also been told farming is "risky" due to weather factors. Most businesses are risky. An unexpected disaster or innovation by a competitor has killed many businesses. Consider what digital photography did to Kodak or what cellphones did to phone booth manufacturers.

Farmers can get private crop insurance, so why is the government providing it? Farmers can hedge their crops on commodity exchanges. High-tech firms, airlines and many other businesses don't have that option.

The fact is the private sector could and probably should do most of the things the Agriculture Department is now doing, and this is true with most government agencies. Those few things that are purely government functions within the Agriculture Department could be funded largely with user fees.

There's quite a bit of low hanging fruit if we want to chip away at out-of-control government spending, but nobody in Congress is willing to do ANYTHING!

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