Free markets in the Western world today are created and driven by one basic philosophy – that decisions about production and manufacturing may be made by a business, but ultimately their success or failure is determined by the marketplace. Supply and demand still rule in free markets, as they should. The United States has a long tradition of supporting free markets and open competition in our capitalist society, a history that must continue for our nation to remain competitive in the global marketplace.
That global competition is why I am so concerned about efforts in Congress to create a new supply management program for our nation’s dairy farmers. Our farmers and ranchers are working hard to compete in a global marketplace, and Congress should not create new barriers to letting U.S. agriculture products into the global marketplace.
In the 2013 version of the Farm Bill, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) included a provision to create a new Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP). This brand new government bureaucracy would institute command-and-control procedures over American dairy farmers in the program, telling them how much milk they could produce (or not produce), all ostensibly for the “benefit” of the domestic milk market.
The very fabric of our nation is tied to our domestic food production – our nutrition, our economic and national security, our trade balances – and it remains a core mission of the federal government to support American agriculture. That does not mean, however, that creating new government-run programs dictating production levels for dairy farmers is the proper way to do so.
This tactic of attempting to manage supply and demand by a central government clearing house has been tried before, and has failed wherever it has been attempted. Socialist economies, like the former USSR, determined production levels for virtually every good in their economy, leading to massive food shortages, extreme poverty, and misallocation of limited resources.
More importantly, command-and-control schemes like the DMSP pushed by Rep. Peterson take away the fundamental concepts of freedom and liberty associated with a free market economy. These attempts to have government bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. tell dairy farmers in Minnesota, Virginia, Texas, California, New York, and the rest of the country how much milk they can produce is antithetical to the very underpinnings of our republic.
Furthermore, the basic idea that we somehow need to “limit” production tells the rest of the world the United States is content to cede its share of the global dairy market. Instead of being content with their success, American dairy producers are seeking to expand their production levels to meet the demand of international markets. Instituting a DMSP would shut down these nascent markets and close the door to market growth for American dairy farmers. Instead of telling our dairy farmers to stop producing, we should be encouraging their efforts to market their dairy products internationally, creating new jobs here in the United States and growing our domestic economy. DMSP will only limit the amount of dairy products able to be created, slowing growth and stalling any economic recovery in the agriculture economy.
Later this month the House of Representatives is likely to take up the Farm Bill and debate this issue of dairy supply management. I will be offering an amendment to strip out this command-and-control scheme and would urge other like-minded conservatives to stand with me in this effort.
Congress must be willing to stand up to threats to our liberties, our freedoms, and our free market principles when confronted with an attempt like this. We all know that it is much easier to stop a federal government program before it starts than it is to repeal it down the line. Ronald Reagan put it best when he said “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!” Dairy supply management should not become an engrained government program.
Allowing the DMSP to become law under this new Farm Bill will give control over the American dairy supply to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., will erode personal freedoms, and will undermine free markets. All conservatives should stand up and say enough to this kind of command-and-control emanating from Washington, D.C. and vote to eliminate this new DMSP from the Farm Bill.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte is a former Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and currently the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He represents Virginia’s 6th District in the House of Representatives.