Tom Sell, regular contributor to Farm Policy Facts, recently penned a response to a Politico op-ed by Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group entitled “Worst Farm Bill Ever.”
Politico does not publish letters to the editor, but the response contains important facts about farm policy and so we are publishing it here.
The text of Sell’s letter can be read below:
Scott Faber’s recent column in Politico, “Worst Farm Bill Ever” (7-17-13), is not just a seething lament of a group that lost on almost all the issues for which they aggressively lobbied, but also a textbook example of why he and his organization should never win.
It is clever and full of fiery rhetoric — EWG is always clever and rhetoric filled. But from its opening claim that this is “the most generous farm subsidies in history,” it is, as normal, detached from the truth.
The reality is that members of Congress voted for a bill that reduced farm spending — by $13.8 billion or 9.4 percent. And that cut is from a historically low baseline. From, 1999 to 2003, we spent $22.3 billion per year on farm policy and crop insurance to support farmers. From 2004 to 2008, we spent $15.5 billion. From 2009 through 2013, even with the epic drought of 2012, we will have spent $14.0 billion. This steady spending decline is the baseline from which the additional 9.4 percent cuts are being made.
Faber has made a living of playing big vs. small and making full-time farm families out to be the bad guys. So he complains “the bottom 80 percent get less than $5,000 apiece.” But those bottom 80 percent aren’t full-time farmers. To be in Faber’s small and worthy category, your total sales (gross sales — not net income) has to be less than $50,000. For row crop farmers, that is about a 50-acre plot which has not been enough to make a living for about a century or so. This 80 percent of “farmers” makes up just 4 percent of total production. They are part-time farmers, that while important to rural America do not feed and clothe the country. Our greater concern should be for the full-time farmers — those grossing greater than $250,000 who make up only 9.85 percent of the total, but produce more than 85% of total goods.
These are not corporate farms as Mr. Faber likes to paint them. They are committed farm families trying to make their small businesses work so that they can take care of the land and pass it on to the next generation in better shape than it was passed to them.
Mr. Faber will continue to paint farmers in the worst light he can — it is his job. But Americans deserve honest explanations of the facts on policy as fundamental as that contained in the farm bill.