New York Times Gets an Earful

February 1, 2011

Those of us in the farming community have long complained that big-city newspaper editorial boards are quick to bash farm policy but rarely print letters submitted in defense of the world’s safest, most affordable, abundant food and fiber supply. In fact, we’ve given an online home to some of these unpublished letters.

But farmers are also quick to give credit where it is due, which is why we want to recognize the New York Times. The newspaper took an unnecessary swing at farmers in a Jan. 16 editorial, but it at least had the courtesy to publish two letters on Jan. 22 disagreeing with its position.

Those letters can be found below.

To the Editor:

In arguing that it is reckless to cut the budget during hard times and high unemployment but good to eliminate farm policy (“Here’s an Easy One,” editorial, Jan. 16), you miss both targets. Farm policy accounts for one-fourth of 1 percent of the budget. It would take 103 years of savings from the repeal of farm policy to eliminate this year’s deficit, and 1,093 years to eliminate the debt.

On the economy, the Fed concluded that, thanks to agriculture, “rural America is leading the U.S. economic recovery” as it did in the last recession. But the Fed also warns that farm debt has risen “the fastest since the prelude to the 1980s farm debt crisis” that affected even New York.

Against all the misrepresentations about farm policy, I have some sobering news: if the bottom falls out on agriculture, existing farm policy is already too weakened to prevent a crisis.

Larry Combest
Lubbock, Tex., Jan. 19, 2011

The writer, a registered lobbyist for several farm organizations, was chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, 1999-2002.

To the Editor:

I wasn’t surprised to see the Jan. 16 editorial taking a swipe at sugar policy (“Here’s an Easy One”). But I was surprised that this latest attack came in an editorial about the need to trim federal budgets.

Sugar policy operates at no cost to taxpayers and hasn’t contributed to the debt. And the White House projects that sugar policy will remain no cost through at least 2020. It’s hard to be more fiscally responsible than that.

Jack Roney
Arlington, Va., Jan. 18, 2011

The writer is director of economics and policy analysis, American Sugar Alliance.