"Once upon a time, in a country way, way down under, the government dismantled its system of agricultural subsidies and supports. Initially, cries of outrage and disbelief were heard from farmers all across the land.This is a timely article in view of Bread for the World's 2007 Offering of Letters.
For more than 20 years, farm assistance had steadily increased, peaking at 33 percent of total farm output (about double the level of assistance in the U.S. today). Then, with one swift and decisive decree, all subsidies were eliminated.
The transition period, which lasted about 6 years, was not easy, but it was less painful than expected. The government predicted a 10 percent failure rate, but only 1 percent of farms went of business. Government assistance during the transition period was limited to one-off 'exit grants' for those leaving their farms, financial advice, and the same social welfare income support afforded to all citizens."
According to Bread for the World, two-thirds of American farmers get no subsidies at all, in contrast with the top 10% of US farmers who receive 60% of the subsidies. This bit of information by itself should raise questions in people's minds. Why is a program that was designed to help the small farmer failing to reach the lower two-thirds of American farmers?
Add to that the subsidized US food commodities that are exported to developing nations, providing food at lower cost that indigenous farmers can grow it. It may have been a good thought, but our system of farm subsidies not only favors the larger farming operations to the exclusion of small family farms, but has the effect, albeit unintended, of making it difficult for small farms in developing countries to operate.
This is something that calls for Christians to reflect, pray, and if they are moved to do so, to let their elected officials know that this is important. It may, perhaps, be even more more important and far-reaching than any other issue facing the United States.