The Time to End Agriculture Dependency is Now
Despite the electoral failures of the past two presidential elections, we can still take solace in the fact that there are more red states than blue states; more red districts than blue districts. Hence, there are more parts of the country where people are intuitively suspicious of a large federal government than where there are people who are overtly appreciative of the federal leviathan. So why is it that there are only a small group of elected officials who are committed to significantly shrinking the size of the federal government?
Creating dependency is the catalyst for cementing a long-term coalition of big government statists. Most people think of big urban states and cities when discussing the politics of dependency and special interests; however, the red states have their own share of parochial interests. Any region or constituency can be fertile ground for creating dependency on the federal government, no matter how innately they are predisposition to hate the federal government. It is not hard for a selfish politician to raise the specter of government involvement in a local interest and perpetuate the expectation that government will permanently foster that interest.
Nowhere is this phenomenon of red state dependency more evident than in the Agriculture community. Farmers are naturally hard workers who believe in rugged individualism. But self-centered politicians representing these districts have worked in tandem with local parochial interests to ensure that the people of some of our most conservative districts are only represented by supporters of big-government dependency and special-interest politics. In order to secure an endless flow of farm subsidies (or energy subsidies), these politicians have often teamed up with other special interests in Congress to help grow all sectors of government. Hence, we have some of the most conservative districts being represented by members who help promote the greatest common factor of all spending bills.
If there is any hope of ever growing our minority of limited-government constitutional conservatives, we must begin by breaking the cycle of dependency in the red states, particularly the Agriculture communities – places where people are instinctively receptive to a limited government message. There is no better time to begin weaning the Ag community off of the federal government than now. With crop commodities near record highs, farm income is at a 40-year high, despite the severe drought last summer. Amazingly, a major factor in robust farm income is the crop insurance program, which has bestowed its recipients with record high indemnities. Now is the time to pull the plug on these market distorting subsidies.
It’s time to elect principled conservatives who are willing to stand up to the special interests who promote subsidies, ethanol mandates, and wind handouts, and preach free market values directly to their constituents. Remember that farm subsidies overwhelmingly benefit large profitable farms over small family farms. Farm subsidies and crop insurance programs help promote income inequality in farming by offering larger subsidies to those who already have larger farms. These farmers can enjoy multimillion dollar insurance policies that are subsidized in order to guarantee their multimillion dollar investments that would otherwise not be supported by the free market. Also, federal guarantees of bankers’ loans to rich farmers have further increased their borrowing capacity, thereby driving up the cost of land acquisition. This, in turn, has shut out small farmers from the business, making it nearly impossible for them to compete.
If Republicans want to stand up for agriculture interests in red America, they should commit to ending the Death Tax and fighting all the EPA and labor regulations that hurt farmers. There is no constituency that will reject a handout when it is offered for free, but farmers understand that government intervention is not free. If their representatives would promise to reduce taxation and regulation, most farmers, sans the special interest leaders, would be willing to forgo the subsidization.
Last year, Jim Bridenstine (OK-1) provided the roadmap for a red state resurgence of free-market populism. He defeated the lead sponsor of T. Boone Pickens NatGas subsidy bill in the birthplace of T. Boone Pickens and the home of Chesapeake Energy Corp. Despite boldly declaring that “we ought not let Washington, D.C., control free markets with tax subsidies,” Bridenstine upset a 10-year veteran by 7 points.
It’s high time we elect farm state representatives who respect the free market, small farmers, and consumers. It would be nice to find replacements for Rick Crawford (AR-1), Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1), Mike Simpson (ID-2), Frank Lucas (OK-3) – just to name a few. We also have some great opportunities with competitive or open Senate seats in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Arkansas. With decades’ worth of direct subsidies, crop insurance, conservation subsidies, marketing loans, disaster aid, trade barriers, commodity price supports, and production controls, we all understand that the entire structure of farm dependency will not end overnight. But that must be the ultimate goal for conservatives. We have no other choice.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project