Farm Subsidies Still Debated

With the 2013 Farm Bill still stalled in Congress, environmental activists and food reformers are still waging war on many federal farm subsidies, arguing that they entrench the wealth of corporate farmers at the expense of consumers and the health of the environment.
For generations, federal farm subsidies have been an important part of federal farm legislation. While the precise mechanism of these subsidies and protections have changed (with federal policy ranging from price controls/mandates to insurance subsidies), they have long been a part of American agricultural policies.
Some economists, however, have argued that these subsidies are detrimental to the farm sector in the end. Of particular importance to the long-term health of the farm sector is the troubling demographic shifts that have slowly been transforming the industry. For the past several decades, the average age of American farmers has been creeping up (with some communities reporting the average age of their farmers at 60). Without young people entering the profession, the next group of retirements could have a serious impact on production.
The demographics, some economists have argued, are the result of long-term federal subsidies. While these programs may protect farmers in the short-term, they have also contributed to the increased price of farmland and the increased cost of getting started agriculturally (something that has helped drive young farmers away).
In addition, environmental groups have long argued that subsidies, particularly corn and soybean subsidies, are contributing to an unsustainable agricultural future that will hurt the environment and cannot support global food needs.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer