Our View: Heritage Recycles Old Proposal to Nix Risk Management Tools for Farmers

September 8, 2016

The Heritage Foundation has long opposed U.S. farmers and ranchers having any kind of meaningful safety net to protect against weather disasters, volatile markets, and predatory trade practices abroad. So, the fact that they published a report suggesting the elimination of farm policy is not new or noteworthy.

What is noteworthy is that they make these suggestions at a time when rural America is struggling with a 56 percent decline in farm income. It is, likewise, noteworthy that Heritage is silent about the policies of America’s competitors, which support their farmers and ranchers at much higher levels. Countries like Brazil, Thailand, India, and China that are manipulating global commodity markets with a run-up in farm handouts and threatening rural American jobs in the process. These countries would like nothing more than to see the United States fall off the world stage in agricultural production, and apparently they have an ally in the Heritage Foundation, which seems all too happy to kick American farmers and ranchers when they are down.

Our highly efficient agricultural producers can compete against anyone on a level playing field. They can’t compete against foreign treasuries. And, they shouldn’t have to defend themselves against domestic think tanks that produce little more than rehashed reports designed to rip holes in levelheaded, bipartisan policies.

Suggesting we eliminate our investment in a secure, domestic food supply, which is less than half of one percent of federal spending, makes about as much sense as suggesting we eliminate our investment in our military and national security.

Sure, that would save a tiny bit of money in the short-term, but at what cost to the country’s future? Heritage just doesn’t get it, and apparently, when it comes to rural America, they never will.

Quick Look: Heritage Cherry-Picks Old Data to Make Flawed Argument

    • Report is based on dated premise that “agricultural producers are doing well financially,” yet Heritage conveniently ends their analysis in 2013. Commodity markets are cyclical and net farm income has dropped 56 percent since then. 2016 marks the third straight year of a painful decline in farm country.

    • Report ends U.S. farm debt to asset ratio analysis and similar income measures in 2014, which again is before commodity prices crashed.

    • Report misuses farm size and makes up statistics to suit different arguments. For example, the report states “20% of all farms are ‘point farms,’ (also referred to as “hobby farms”) which did not have the minimum $1000 in sales to be considered a farm,” but then uses this data point to argue that these farms are supported by off-farm income and concluded that off-farm income is a better risk management tool than crop insurance.

    • Report measures family farm income and wealth statistics against average U.S. household assets and incomes rather than the more appropriate comparison of statistics on other small businesses, which are readily available from the Small Business Administration.

    • Report makes claims that “subsidies go to individuals who have little to do with farming” using a 2013 press release from the Environmental Working Group and a seven-year old analysis from the Washington Post that attacks a farm program (Direct Payments) that does not exist any more.

    • Heritage’s “task force” is devoid of farmers or ranchers with practical experience and knowledge about agricultural risk.