A Government Agency Making Farmers’ Lives Miserable – Besides the EPA, We Mean

Seton Motley | Less Government | LessGovernment.org
The Green is, As Always,
for Money

Government has two roles. Pretend to make the lives of Americans better – while actually making them worse. The first is a necessary facade – to allow them to execute the second.

Is this crass and cynical? Yes, it is. But it is also accurate. Here’s some more crass accuracy.

Government is like any other organism. Its primary priorities are self-preservation – and expansion. So it constantly shouts about the (highly dubious) necessity of its existence – and its growth. All of which comes at the expense of the private sector.

God bless the private sector. It managed for a century-plus to continue to make our lives better – despite ever-increasing government. For the last three to four decades, freedom and government have fought to a virtual standoff. Which is largely why wages have stagnated – and economic growth has slowed to a crawl.

All the while, government – at all levels – continued and continues to grow.

The Barack Obama Administration has ramped-up-on-steroids the federal government’s war on the private sector. And government is winning. President Obama has added $10 trillion in government debt – and hundreds of thousands of pages of new government regulations.

The result? This president will be the first president in our nation’s history to never have a year of 3% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. (By contrast, Ronald Reagan – who inherited a far worse economy than did Obama – AVERAGED 3.5% GDP growth.)

Government – is winning. On all things – all the way down to the basics.

Do you like to eat? I like to eat. But I don’t think government likes us liking to eat. Based upon the incessant, omni-directional assaults executed on farmers and our agriculture sector.

Of course there is the productivity-seeking government missile – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We have on many occasions chronicled this ridiculous agency’s attacks on farmers (and everyone else). Of particular note is the EPA’s dramatic, extra-lawful expansion of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) – which will prohibit many farmers from doing literally anything on their land.

But the EPA is certainly not the only arm of the Leviathan attacking farmers. Behold the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

George Mason University’s Mercatus Center just issued an in-depth look at its many inanities – “The Evolving Role of the USDA in the Food and Agricultural Economy.” (Their title is far less crass than mine would be.)

The USDA has done what all things government have done – continually grown into an ever-increasing pain in the keister.

Since its inception more than a century and a half ago, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has experienced enormous growth in both size and complexity….Today the USDA is among the largest federal employers and its 2014 budget exceeded $160 billion.

Get that? The farm sector has spent the last century-plus dramatically reducing its number of participants (thank you very much, private sector advancements). In 1900, 40% of Americans worked on farms. Today, a mere 1% do.

But the agency overseeing the sector? It “experienced enormous growth in both size and complexity” – and today “is among the largest federal employers and its 2014 budget exceeded $160 billion.”

In the private sector – that makes zero sense. In government – that’s how things work.

One reason the USDA has grown so huge and complex? Another government hallmark – mission creep:

Its spectrum of activities span from the protection of rural farm interests to urban food assistance.

Again, less crass than I would be. I’m not sure how many farm interests feel “protected.” And I have zero idea why a department of agriculture is providing “urban food assistance” (food stamps and the like). Not a lot of agriculture going on in our nation’s inner-cities.

Consequently, the department is the target of a wide range of interest groups besides farmers, including food assistance advocates and advocacy groups interested in issues such as obesity, animal welfare, food safety, the environment, and more.

How very government. With this mission creep comes myriad additional special interests looking to thrust their snouts into USDA’s $160 billion trough. Far too often, farmers get short shrift from the agency that regulates the daylight out of them.

Speaking of mission creep:

  • When the USDA was established in 1862, its stated mission was to collect foreign seeds and distribute them to farmers.
  • In 1906, Congress passed laws requiring the inspection of meat, poultry, and eggs, and the USDA was tasked with enforcing food safety.

So far, ok (though the states should have handled the latter). But then…:

  • During the Great Depression, the USDA mandated price floors and bought surplus crops. This unintentionally encouraged overproduction, lowering food prices, and the USDA quickly exhausted its $500 million budget.
  • As part of the New Deal, farmers were given subsidies for not planting crops.

We’ve been straddled with our ridiculous Farm Bill ever since.

And this ridiculous mission creep has made all things USDA ridiculously difficult.

The disparate agendas of these groups make it difficult for Congress to assemble a unified policy package each time USDA’s programs are due for reauthorization. The latest reauthorization, the Agricultural Act of 2014, was signed into law two years late in February 2015.

And makes killing the Farm Bill ridiculously difficult. As evidenced by the fact that we conservatives have spent the last eighty or so years trying to do so – with absolutely zero success.

So perhaps we should try something else?

Under the Zero-for-Zero” plan, U.S. sugar policy would also be rolled back in exchange for the elimination of foreign programs, which (Florida Republican Congressman Ted) Yoho says are distorting world prices and inhibiting a free market.

Congressman Yoho is, of course, absolutely correct.  We’ve been “distorting world prices and inhibiting a free market” for decades – and on oh-so-much-more than merely sugar.

In other words, we free-trade-away our stupid policies – in exchange for other nations free-trading-away theirs.

And when it next comes time to renew the awful Farm Bill – there will be far less Farm Bill to renew.

That’s progress. Finally. Crass, accurate progress.

Then maybe we can start rolling back the USDA. And the EPA. And….

This first appeared in the Daily Caller and Red State.

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