- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

Not surprisingly, somewhere in the huge farm spending bill there's a subsidy for [baloney]. There must be for S. Richard Tolman to accuse thinking people of “farm bashing” because they are opposed to the new act (“Farmer-bashing all the new rage,” Commentary, Thursday).

Where to start?

How about Mr. Tolman's explanation that the farm subsidy program was started to “keep farmers in business and the food supply constant so costs can stay low.” There's the rub: “to keep farmers in business.” Why do we have to do that? Farmers going out of business doesn't mean food won't be produced, only that those particular farmers who are bowing out won't be doing the producing. That's the way it should be in a free-market economy.

Also, how about Mr. Tolman's rhetorical question about 328,000 farm and ranch jobs lost? The food still will be produced if there's a market, and megafarms would do it much more efficiently. Sadly, though, they still will be subsidized because the program is based on acres, not who is doing the tilling.

As for Mr. Tolman's reference to farmers' hours and “well-worked pickups,” the largest farm in my neck of the woods received $500,000 in subsidies between 1996 and 2001 (information that, conveniently for recipients, will no longer be available thanks to an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act provided in the bill). The farmer's hired help rides in an air-conditioned, stereo-equipped tractor while the “farmer” develops a golf course and also receives pay as a local government official. Fortunately, though, he does enjoy some respite from all this toil while flying his personal aircraft or visiting his condos in Northern Michigan and Mexico.

I know from personal observation that an awful lot of farmers with substantial assets (excluding land) pay little or no income tax from incomes of all types because of “losses” on the farm.

Then there are favorable rates on property taxes and exemptions from local land-use ordinances.

I wish the rest of us could enjoy what Mr. Tolman, referring to 2001 farm earnings, called “the lowest real net cash income since the Great Depression.” Whatever that is, it affords a great living standard and leaves a bit left over for supporting your local congressman and a powerful lobby to keep the money coming in.


Schoolcraft, Mich.

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