What happens to farmers if we end government farm subsidies?

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(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 18, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: If you remove all farm subsidies, what happens to the farmer when drought or flood hits and he losses his crop for one year?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Like other business people, farmers plan for bad years through savings, insurance, etc. If they fail to make such plans, they suffer the same fate as other businesses operating on the edge — they go under in tough times. They are bought out by someone who manages better. The displaced farmers find an occupation more suited to their particular talents.

Subsidies discourage good management and encourage inefficiency. As a result, consumers pay more for less.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for additional reading on this topic:

* “Five Reasons to Repeal Farm Subsidies“ by Chris Edwards, Cato Institute, May 31, 2013.

EXCERPT: “Why is farming so coddled by the government? It’s a risky business, but not uniquely so. Industries such as high technology, newspapers, and restaurants are very risky, yet they don’t rely on government handouts. Farming faces certain risks such as adverse weather. But high-tech companies are vulnerable to rapid innovations by competitors, and restaurants are vulnerable to changing consumer tastes and intense competition. … If farm subsidies were ended…a stronger and more innovative agriculture industry would emerge that would be more productive and more resilient in the long run.”

* “GOP Hypocrisy and the Farm Bill“ By Michael Tanner, Cato Institute, Huffington Post, July 12, 2013. In this op-ed Tanner dissects a federal farm bill and shows the anti-market, anti-consumer nature of farm subsidies — and the shockingly huge conservative support for them.

EXCERPT: “In 2011, the last year for which full data is available, the average farm household had an income of $87,289, 25 percent higher than the average for all U.S. households. And about a third of the farm subsidies go to the largest four percent of farm operators. If you want to see real ‘welfare queens,’ look no further than Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyler Farms, and Riceland Foods.”

in Communicating Liberty by Mary Ruwart Comments are off
About the author: Mary Ruwart

Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication and author of the international bestseller Healing Our World. She is also author of Short Answers to Tough Questions, in which you will find a collection of her answers from this column. In this column she provides Liberator Online readers with answers to questions libertarians are often asked. Dr. Ruwart is a research scientist, ethicist, and a libertarian author/activist. She received her B.S. in biochemistry in 1970 and her Ph.D. in Biophysics in 1974 (both from Michigan State University). She subsequently joined the Department of Surgery at St. Louis University and left her Assistant Professorship there to accept a position with The Upjohn Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1976. As a senior research scientist, Dr. Ruwart was involved in developing new therapies for a variety of diseases, including liver cirrhosis and AIDS. Dr. Ruwart left Upjohn in 1995 to devote her time to consulting and writing. Her communications course for scientists (www.speakingforscientists.com), covering written, oral, and poster presentations has received high praise from attendees. She also provides consulting services for nutraceutical companies, clinical research organizations, and universities. Currently, Dr. Ruwart serves as Chair of the International Society for Individual Liberty (www.isil.org) and Secretary of the Foundation for a Free Society (www.f4fs.org). She has been an At-Large member of the Libertarian National Committee (www.lp.org), served on the Board of both the Heartland Institute (www.heartland.org; Michigan Chapter) and the Fully Informed Jury Amendment Association (www.fija.org).