It was on this day in 1889 that Grover Cleveland signed the law making the Department of Agriculture a Cabinet-level entity. Agriculture had always been important, of course, but as government became more important the farmers wanted a voice at the most important discussions. I don't think anybody has been happier as a result, and a lot of people have had things to say about it.
As someone who has been spending my share of time playing the Farmville and Farm Town games on Facebook, I can tell you, this farming stuff is definitely not easy [:)]
Below are some quotes on agriculture and farming, my favorite is without a doubt, Milton Friedman’s.
“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1890 – 1969
“Little ol' boy in the Panhandle told me the other day you can still make a small fortune in agriculture. Problem is, you got to start with a large one.” – Jim Hightower
“The crime bill passed by the Senate would reinstate the Federal death penalty for certain violent crimes: assassinating the President; hijacking an airliner; and murdering a government poultry inspector.” – Knight Ridder News Service dispatch
“Farm policy, although it's complex, can be explained. What it can't be is believed. No cheating spouse, no teen with a wrecked family car, no mayor of Washington, DC, videotaped in flagrante delicto has ever come up with anything as farfetched as U.S. farm policy.” – P. J. O'Rourke
“The greatest advances of civilization, whether in architecture or painting, in science and literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government.” – Milton Friedman, 1912 – 2006
“The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn't still be a farmer.” – Will Rogers, 1879 – 1935
This is why due dilligence (on the part of the people) and small government are necessary to the liberty of the people. Otherwise, the powerful get in each other’s pocket, and the people are left whatever is left over. Every power we give to government is a freedom we just lost.
All government programs that attempt an improvement in the private business sector eventually run amok. It is some kind of physical law.
Nice, EW. You’ve described the history of farm subsidies exactly. And you’ve also described accurately how “big government” programs can run amok. Not being a farmer, I tend to think that farm subsidies would be an excellent place to start cutting back on government expenses. But then, I’m not walking in the farmer’s shoes.
The first direct subsidies were aimed at stabilizing milk prices, which were getting whip-sawed by increases and decreases in milk herds responding to milk prices. It acually works fairly well for that purpose.
As to your point, Jimr, the paying to take acrage out of production began after the Dust Bowl years when soil management gained importance. Farmers were told of the advantages of rotating crops every year, and taking the land out of production every third or fourth year. The farmers were receptive to the theory, but said they couldn’t afford to take significant acrage out of production each year, and the government agreed to subsidize the fallow fields in the name of never having to go through the Dust Bowl again. Politicians and special interests being what they are, we now have huge corporate farms “improving” vast fields they never intend to farm in order to get subsidy payments as part of the income stream.
Thanks Libby, I never really understood the whole subsidy program, I realize it’s to control price; however, with so many people starving in this and other countries, why exactly are we paying farmers not to farm?
I live in rural central Pennsylvania farm country, and all I can say is the farmers that surround me certainly love centralized government when it comes to their farm subsidies…but on every other issue they really hate centralized government programs. Go figure!
My favorite quote is the one from Jim Hightower.