Tag Archives: agricultural policy

Basic Farm Bill Economics: The Beginning

My maternal grandparents were homestead farmers in Oklahoma and I remember my grandfather talking about how participation in the Farm Program required him to “lay some of my fields fallow”. That’s about all I remember of his speaking on that topic. Except I also remember thinking, well, that doesn’t make sense. Then I studied agricultural economics and policy in graduate school – after my Granddaddy Scott was gone – and I learned the concept behind price control. Everyone knows the basic law of supply and demand, right? Simply put, as supply rises and demand decreases, then prices fall. So, to stabilize prices on a commodity like wheat, for example, you PAY your farmers to reduce the amount of wheat they are growing, you reduce the glut on the market, and your farmers receive a better price for the wheat that they DO grow and sell, which stimulates the economy all round. And, to further control the price, you store a big bucketload of it in your “emergency food stores” to ensure the “health and safety of your country”. It’s exactly the same as controlling currency. Simply put.

It was brilliant. It helped my grandparents survive – I’m sure of it. So what happened to us as an agriculturally rich country? Why are we blaming rural farmers for lack of local food and, even, for GMO? Somewhere along the line Big Ag got mixed up in farm programs. Enter GMO. Oh so simply put….

Neither my grandfather nor any of his neighbors could have foreseen what would happen by accepting the benefits of the Farm Bill. Why would they? There was no harm in laying a field fallow because they, and all of their neighbors, grew their OWN fruits and veggies for their own consumption. It would never occur to them that they needed to provide peaches, lettuce, tomatoes and more to their neighbors or to the nearest city. Everyone was a City Farmer in their own right and they farmed to provide COMMODITIES to a broader market: the city.

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