Last September the conservative leaning Heritage Foundation issued a report entitled “Farms and Free Enterprise: A Blueprint for Agricultural Policy”. The Report (Here) reviews agricultural policies which Heritage believes needs to be changed and eliminated.
This did not go unnoticed. One group, Farm Policy Facts, issued a press release on April 25, 2017, claiming “The Heritage Foundation is cranking up its anti-American agriculture propaganda machine in an effort to destroy what remains of the farm safety net just as Congress begins the process of writing the next farm bill.”
Their farm policy statement claims Heritage is out of touch with reality “…because there is no free market when it comes to agriculture. Our producers are competing against foreign governments and their treasuries, not foreign farmers.”
The Heritage Foundation, through its CEO, claims it is time to change American farm policy and the farm bill by telling Congress “Our leaders will best honor the vital role of agriculture in our society by letting us return to our plowshares unmolested by government, and leaving despotism with the rest of the fertilizer.” The Heritage report suggests eliminating longtime farm bill policies. Heritage would get rid of agricultural program spending, eliminate revenue-based crop insurance, eliminate bio energy programs, eliminate the ethanol mandate, eliminate WOTUS or Waters of the United States, and transfer management of federal lands back to states and private citizens.
Heritage Foundation influence in Washington
The Heritage Foundation is an influential force in Washington, D.C. For the next two years, Congress will undertake a program to reauthorize many agricultural programs or cut them back. Heritage claims its policy proposals “…give legislators a choice between the status quo and policies that believe in farmers, ranchers, and the market, not in cronyism and big government.” Heritage claims it has a free enterprise blueprint for American farmers. Producers should take the time to read the Heritage Foundation proposals. For many of you, I suspect, there will be anger at what Heritage is proposing to impose on America’s farmers and ranchers. For some, reading the Heritage Report there will be enthusiasm if not support regarding the promotion of free trade for agriculture and there will likely be support for Heritage’s suggestions of eliminating key regulatory obstacles.
The blueprint Heritage proposes for agriculture involves separating agricultural programs from the nutrition title of the farm bill. This is likely to be a nonstarter because several spokespeople for the Trump administration have made it clear this policy is not supported by President Trump.
Heritage seeks to move away from subsidies which address agricultural risk. Heritage suggests that the agricultural production in this country comes from farmers who have the financial means to manage risk. Heritage claims that farms with $5 million or greater in agricultural sales account for about a third of all sales. Farms in the U.S. with $1 million in sales account for about 2/3 of agricultural product sales. Heritage also claims “75% of all farms had sales less than $50,000, accounting for only 3% of all sales;” the last statistic Heritage cites for its position that subsidies should be eliminated is that “More than half of all farms had sales of less than $10,000. These farms accounted for less than 1% of all [agricultural] sales.”
Based on these numbers, Heritage wants to eliminate all of Title I except disaster assistance programs, focus the Federal Crop Insurance Program to eliminate revenue-based policies, cover deep losses only, treat farmers and ranchers as other businesses for disasters and involve the states in assisting in agricultural risk programs.
Heritage, in essence, makes the point that farm households are truly wealthy as compared to other American households. Moreover, Heritage declares the vast majority of even small farm households are doing quite nicely. Heritage concludes that the farmers and ranchers of America are doing too well and no special treatment is necessary to help them manage risk.
I suspect there will be considerable disagreement on this last point.