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Posted: 5/29/2003 7:03:19 PM EDT
[url=http://www.gilavalleyherald.com/DoUSFarmsProduceTooMuch.html][b]Do U.S. farms produce too much?[/b][/url] by Carroll Cox Snowflake Pioneer Dan P. Van Gorder, in his 1966 book Ill Fares the Land, wrote that for most of this century, beginning before the stock market crash of 1929, Americans have been told that the nation's farmers produced huge food surpluses and that overproduction was one of the primary causes of the crash and the following years of depression. The 'overprotection' theme has served as "the foundation over 80 years of federal intrusion and manipulation inflicted on American food producers since FDR signed the Agricultural Adjustment Act into law in 1933," Van Gorder said. "But the entire overproduction theme song is a hoax based on half-truths, omissions and downright lies." Van Gorder's book outlines the historical origins of this web of deception, using the government's own figures. The figures were there all the time, he said, but journalists have never been interested enough in farm problems to analyze government records which are guaranteed to give anyone trying to figure them out a headache. Most people are familiar with today's huge U.S. trade deficits, but this article will focus on the early century beginnings of our independent food-base-destroying policies. Tom Anderson said in his introductions to Van Gorder's book that "the only real surplus is a surplus of government workers. For forty years the bureaucrats have been farming the farmers and milking the taxpayers, multiplying in the agencies while the number of family farms and a culturally strong way of life have shrunk to a fraction." Anderson said (and remember this was in 1966) the "the government spends more on agriculture per farmer than most farmers make from farming (today the average net income for farmers is $23,000)." The figures Van Gorder compiled are no doubt eyebrow-raisers even to most farmers: • Between 1919 and 1938 we exported 2,225,000 tons of sugar while importing 62,535,000 tons—28 pounds of sugar imported for every pound we exported. Between 1960 and 1964 we exported only 22,600 tons and imported 20,126,000 tons—one pound of exported sugar for ever 888 pounds imported! Sugar beets can be grown almost anywhere in the U.S. yet, in those five years between 1960 and 1964, the U.S. Government paid a total of $407,589,000 for farmers not to grow sugar beets. Does that make any sense? Americans were being told that the U.S. had far too many farms, yet it would have required 1,700,000 acres of sugar beets alone to produce the sugar we imported in an average year. •Between 1919 and 1938 we exported 746,000 tons of dry field beans but imported 817,000 tons! We exported 530 million tons of fresh vegetables while importing 2,205 million tons. We exported 10,139,000 tons of fresh fruits, but still imported 24,917,000 tons. • American poultrymen sold 366 million dozen eggs abroad between 1919 and 1938, but imported 733 million dozen eggs. One of the most common ways government obscures information (then and now), Van Gorder wrote, is to publish production and export figures while omitting the impact of population growth and imports, which if they are published at all are in separate, inconspicuous placements where busy people don't relate and compare them to production and export. A good example is commodity grains—wheat, corn, barley, rye, oats, etc. Domestic supply per capita of those grains in 1900 was 2,585 and down to 1,692 pounds in 1938. • Between 1919 and 1938 we imported 1.5 million tons more beef than we exported, and between 1928 and 1938 we imported 655 million pounds more of combined beef, lamb, veal and pork than we exported. This was at the very time when government was slaughtering millions of head of domestic livestock on ranches, farms and Indian reservations because supposedly we had too many—even though countless Americans were going hungry during the depression years. Oldtimers in my area of central Arizona told me livestock was slaughtered and burned because government policy prohibited use of the meat. (Some government 'terminators,' however, looked in the other direction while carcasses disappeared.) •Van Gorder described dairy production as a "realm of government wrecking, experimentation and misrepresentation so vast and disastrous that it defies description." Government records on dairy production were not kept until 1924 but between 1924 and 1938 U.S. dairy exports were 6,757 million pounds—compared to 13,981 million pounds of dairy product imports. "If we had not exported a single pound of dairy products in those years our domestic consumption would have exceeded domestic production by 7 billion pounds," Van Gorder said. "Yet the government ordered the elimination of six to seven million cows and heifers!" And that's how thousands upon thousands of U.S. farmers were driven out of business through preference trade policies designed to rebuild Europe after World War I, and sold to the American public on the fabrication that there were too many U.S. farms producing too much. Today, the number of American farms continue to shrink, concentrated into multinational factory farms, or abandoned altogether, crushed under soaring overhead and government policies. Millions of acres are urbanized or idled each year. Six percent of corporate farms now account for more than 70 percent of farm income. Only three percent of the U.S. farms have sales of over $500,000 and they are the ones that receive the lion's share of billions of dollars in government subsidies. These subsidies stimulate "overproduction," economic analysts say, and create ever more dependency on... subsidies. Fast forward to 2003. According to U.S. Department of Commerce trade figures, the U.S. annually IMPORTS more than $110 billion in agricultural food products itemized under such headings as 'bulk agricultural products,' 'consumer agricultural products,' and 'intermediate agricultural products'—up from $63.7 billion in 1995! In 1995, the U.S. still claimed a trade SURPLUS in agriculture of $83 billion. By 1999, the U.S. had a food DEFICIT of $5 billion (for perspective on how much a billion is, consider that a billion seconds ago it was 1951) and it has been growing by billions each year since then. Imports have been rising at approximately the same rate as exports have been decreasing. Meanwhile 75 to 90 percent of once independent American farmers are classified by the government as 'hobby' farmers because they require non-farm income to support their families, supposedly because there are too many of them. And as Americans become ever more reliant on food imports, the term "overproduction" appears to be as deliberately confusing as ever. "The Amercian public has never been allowed to view the real issues of farm problems in their proper perspective," Van Gorder wrote. The Chinese regard domestic food production and essential goods as a high-priority national security issue. Maybe in that regard, at least, we should borrow a page from their book. "Any abundance, in any amount, is illusory if it does not safeguard its producers." Wendall Berry, 'The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture.'
Link Posted: 5/29/2003 7:16:07 PM EDT
So are we for food or against it?
Link Posted: 5/29/2003 7:17:41 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Oslow: So are we for food or against it?
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Well, we are getting too fat...........
Link Posted: 5/29/2003 7:21:18 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/29/2003 7:22:03 PM EDT by Oslow]
Originally Posted By fight4yourrights: Well, we are getting too fat...........
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Yeah, so food is bad. Let's all quit eating! (Just let me finish this bowl of ice cream.)
Link Posted: 5/29/2003 7:58:39 PM EDT
Tofu milk, soybean burgers along with Emu and beefalo meat should get us through the hard times.
Link Posted: 5/30/2003 1:21:10 AM EDT
Damn. Who knows, with the weird blend of price supports, outright subsidies, sugar import restrictions, paying farmers not to grow, "competing" with foreign subsidized farming.... Look at food prices. Real food prices are nearly irrevelant - not the processed value added meals or junk food. I mean food for the nutritional or caloric value. Food prices have really fallen to a point unmatched in human history. Noone starves in this country unless they choose to do so. I remember a Reagan cabinet secretary getting into hot water for saying some folks would rather starve than spend money for food, but it is true. The phrase "tighten your belts" really meant something only 50 years ago, and it was not pleasant. If grain was more expensive they would not feed it to cattle but bake bread with it. Hamburger would not cost a buck a pound or so if there was not a global oversupply of food. Famines are for the most part politically caused.
Link Posted: 5/30/2003 3:43:02 PM EDT
Originally Posted By pogo: Damn. Who knows, with the weird blend of price supports, [green] There is such a thing but they don't kick in unless prices are below cost of production for most farmers [/green] outright subsidies, [green] They aren't called that but there are payments made to farmers that agree to operate under certain government rules and regulations.[/green] sugar import restrictions, [green]most import restrictions are a response to foreign government subsidies or tariffs on US goods.[/green] paying farmers not to grow, [green]The CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) takes mostly highly erodible land and watersheds out of production, provides water quality benefits and HUNTING habitat. There are costs associated with this program as well. There are no unearned payments "NOT TO FARM"[/green] "competing" with foreign subsidized farming.... [green]European farmers are highly subsidized because most of them can't compete with U.S. scale and efficiency.[/green] Look at food prices. Real food prices are nearly irrevelant - not the processed value added meals or junk food. I mean food for the nutritional or caloric value. Food prices have really fallen to a point unmatched in human history. [green]That is 100% TRUE[/green] Noone starves in this country unless they choose to do so. I remember a Reagan cabinet secretary getting into hot water for saying some folks would rather starve than spend money for food, but it is true. [green]Most of the USDA budget goes to feed people for free, food stamps, school lunches, staple food giveaways, etc..[/green] The phrase "tighten your belts" really meant something only 50 years ago, and it was not pleasant. [green]Yes, there were people in the U.S. who didn't have enough food 50 years ago, even 40 years ago. [/green] If grain was more expensive they would not feed it to cattle but bake bread with it. Hamburger would not cost a buck a pound or so if there was not a global oversupply of food. [green] Yep, not much danger of that happening though. Those "government programs" that pay the farmers all that money are in place to assure the people in the U.S. a stable and "cheap" food supply. The USDA subsidizes your burgers.[/green] Famines are for the most part politically caused. [green]Everyone in the world benefits from the cheap food supply in the U.S. and U.S. taxpayers subsidize the rest of the world. [/green]
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Link Posted: 5/30/2003 3:59:31 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/30/2003 4:00:25 PM EDT by raven]
If there's one sector of the economy that is BEGGING to be reformed, it's agriculture. The subsidies, the quotas, tariffs, and sundry surplus schemes Congress has cooked up for decades are scandalous. And no one really realizes the scale of this waste, or how how much "corporate welfare" goes to gigantic outfits like ADM. Everyone whines about the deficit, I keep thinking about how much spending could be cut by slashing handouts to these guys. But it will never happen.
Link Posted: 5/30/2003 4:38:22 PM EDT
Originally Posted By raven: If there's one sector of the economy that is BEGGING to be reformed, it's agriculture. The subsidies, the quotas, tariffs, and sundry surplus schemes Congress has cooked up for decades are scandalous. And no one really realizes the scale of this waste, or how how much "corporate welfare" goes to gigantic outfits like ADM. Everyone whines about the deficit, I keep thinking about how much spending could be cut by slashing handouts to these guys. But it will never happen.
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I assume your shot at ADM would be in reference to the “subsidy”, actually a tax break, for producing ethanol from renewable resources (grain) as opposed to the tax breaks, depletion allowances, etc, that have been the staple of the oil industry and actually any other industry (I’m not anti-oil, heaven knows I use enough of it). ADM is a giant in the agriculture industry but that doesn’t automatically make them bad. Here again, this subsidy to ADM actually is a subsidy to the consumer in that it provides incentive to produce a useful commodity; a non-polluting, renewable energy source. You just can’t make whiskey out of all of that corn because you guys don’t drink enough.
Link Posted: 5/30/2003 6:01:16 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/30/2003 6:04:31 PM EDT by pogo]
Posted by Oslow- There are no unearned payments "NOT TO FARM" Um, my uncle (by my stepdad) inherited the old family farm in Tennessee. Only about 15-20 acres left as the kids all left the farm and they just got older. He did not farm it nor did he intend to, but he still put in for his "not to grow" payments. Didn't have so much as a shovel to farm with anyways. This land was good farm land, not in an unstable area nor was it forested. In a word, good solid farmland. I don't recall what the subsidies were for as that was 20 years ago, but I remember hearing him rant about how broken the system was while he put in for his government money. EDIT: Yeah, it is scandalous at how much money is poured into agricultural SUBSIDIES. I would like to see US sugar producers compete on the world market. What bugs me is that those agricultural reforms of 10 years ago (remember mohair?) or so were undone just to buy off a half dozen senate votes.
Link Posted: 5/30/2003 6:58:35 PM EDT
You all want to cut subsidies? Ok get ready to start paying out the ass for it. In the US the avg person pay only 8.5% of thier income for food. In Europe it goes higher like up to 20% and in third world contries its like 50-75% of income for food. The government keeps food prices low so YOUR fat and happy. Governments have done this throughout history including the Roman Empire. Food is also national security issue, think of the oil situation and then replace food for oil. If we went to war we better have the farms to produce for us and our allies. Also reminds me of a little thing called the Marshall plan. We feed ourselves and Europe for five years. One thing that American Farmers do well is produce food! Actually, we are so good at it only 1.4% of americans are in Primary agriculture. That means more people working on cars, computers, commence and maunfacturing. Basically frees up the population to do other things. One farmer produces enough food to feed appro. 500 other people. Agriculture is NOT a level playing field, other governments subsidies their farmer way more the ours. Think about this 1/3 of France's population is farmer, why? Because the gov. pays out the ass to export thier goods around the world. We do it better and cheaper then the rest of the world. Except for labor costs. Our farm practices, and marketing are first rate. and most of the ag department budget is not for farmers. About 60% of it goes for food stamps, and another 10-15% just to run the department so that leaves... figure it out. Think about it I as a wheat farmer can produce and sell wheat for less then the price was 80 years ago per bushel! Thats like going 80 years with out a raise! Through better seed and fertilizer and cutting done on labor I can keep my costs down. And finally, It would be nice if we did slap an embargo on every other nation in the world. Remember Pakistan and India pissing on eachother a few years back? What did Clinton do... embargo! No sales to those countries, were does the majority of NW wheat go to those two countries.
Link Posted: 5/30/2003 7:07:40 PM EDT
Originally Posted By pogo: Um, my uncle (by my stepdad) inherited the old family farm in Tennessee. Only about 15-20 acres left as the kids all left the farm and they just got older. He did not farm it nor did he intend to, but he still put in for his "not to grow" payments. Didn't have so much as a shovel to farm with anyways. This land was good farm land, not in an unstable area nor was it forested. In a word, good solid farmland. I don't recall what the subsidies were for as that was 20 years ago, but I remember hearing him rant about how broken the system was while he put in for his government money.
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The operative phrase is 20 years ago. That could have been payments not to grow tobacco on land that had a tobacco allotment. Even 20 years ago the land would have had to be in agricultural use to qualify; if the rules were enforced, which was always a question in some parts of the country. There were\are abuses of the system just as there are where any government agency is involved. And as far as that goes, if your uncle owned farm land, he didn't have to actually raise anything to qualify as a farmer. The system is a little tighter now.
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