Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Farming for Socialism

A day after newspapers reported budget cuts in farm subsidies, a group of state planners, who claim to be economists, released this report, authored by Mike Duffy, Neil Harl and Darryl Ray. The draft by Iowa State's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture reads like a communist manifesto, pathetically cloaked in free market language and riddled with economic fallacies. According to the Center: higher incomes, not higher productivity, creates economic growth; the government is the best source to assessing the safety of food; corporations hurt the environment as they create “industrial food;” vertical integration is bad for the economy; and trade helps firms but hurts local people, who should be compensated.

Sometimes the report contradicts itself. It says food costs too much in third world countries (as much as 75% of income) and then calls oversupply bad, because it reduces prices.

The report is drowning in problems (mostly economic, historical and managerial) and their conclusions are similarly ridiculous. After considering a few ideas to counteract these “evils,” the report begins its answer by returning authority to the Secretary of Agriculture which “would enable the Secretary to function as every CEO of a major corporation does when confronted with overproduction—to reduce output temporarily in accordance with market signals.”

This solution is supposedly “the option that is the most attractive from a cost perspective and least likely to cause widespread economic and financial trauma for the agricultural sector.” All that’s needed in the law itself is a little “fine tuning.”

After building on greater and greater misconceptions about the market and its need of taming, the authors eventually conclude what’s really needed is a global agricultural czar to oversee a “global food and agriculture policy.” Under this plan, Americans will finally understand the everyday horror in the developing world and during the Soviet famines of the early 1920s and 1930s. Here’s to international understanding!

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