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We’re All Socialists Now…

December 15, 2010

Oh the joys of the internet, if you’re not being labeled a socialist, you’re not doing it right, in my opinion. Such was the response to my Twitter snark from a well know “agvocate” as I had dared contradict the well established line that biotech in commodity crops is the only way forward for American agriculture. I think that’s pretty funny since my libertarian political leanings are the polar opposite of such a big government ideology.

Here’s the not so secret fact of conventional commodity agriculture, if we’re taking subsidies to grow crops, we are socialists. (Full disclosure, I grow commodity wheat, I take payments) This is undeniable.
Many a farmer would send you runnin if you dared show up at his place and tell him he was a socialist. Label it corporate welfare and the reaction would no doubt be the same. On top of that, many a cowboy will hold his head up high claiming he’s not taking welfare like those farmers. What he won’t tell you is that he’s feeding out cattle in his feedlot, and they’re eating mountains of subsidized corn, which wouldn’t exist at such levels if not for the subsidies. And what of agribusiness, surely the chemical companies and equipment manufacturers are capitalists, right? Not if you consider the number of farmers who right now are stalking dealerships looking for new equipment to buy at this year’s end, so as to get the deduction and offset their taxes. I’m no fan of income taxes, but are we to believe that if the deduction for new equipment was taken away that those dealers wouldn’t pitch a fit? If you think about it that way, you realize that the subsidies don’t really go to the farmers, they are passed on to equipment and input suppliers. Corporate welfare? How about “crony capitalism”? Which can be explained as seeking special business advantages through subsidies, lobbying, and of course, the tax code.
It’s a pretty funny irony that those hippie lookin, straw hat wearing, farmer’s market producers are in fact more capitalist than their more conventional, commodity brethren. Oh they have their moments too, I cringe when I hear a food reformer type like Michael Pollan express support for the idea of subsidizing organic production, or diversified small farms. Do they not see the mess of unintended consequences that has befallen agriculture since subsidies came to be? A constant theme in farm literature is the decline in the number of farmers, and the flight of young people to jobs in the city. Maybe if agriculture offered a little more in the way of free markets, free thinking and free will, more of us would opt for a dynamic future in agriculture instead of one steered and regulated by our bourgeoisie betters.

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One Comment
  1. I have read the last few posts you have wrote, and I agree with most of points you make. This one included. I’m going to try this year to start grazing with a MIG method. I haven’t figured out the watering yet, but I got plenty just in ponds not close to pastures. And with two past experiences with electric fences that didn’t work well, I’m questioning how they will work this time. But I’m willing to put more effort into them this time. I think it is time to start make changes and become more efficient.

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