Monday, May 16, 2011

Serf's Up: Ag. Policy in America

Rather than letting American farmers decide for themselves what to plant, where to plant it, and when to plant it, the federal government pays farmers in some regions to grow selected crops and, in other regions, pays farmers not to grow those same crops.
That’s right:  On the one hand, the government pays farmers to grow corn.  On the other hand, the government pays farmers not to grow corn.  Some crops the government pays farmers simply to plow under.  Rather than farming their fields, some farmers farm the US Treasury.
That silly scheme -- letting the (literal) bean counters in Washington decide what amount of what crops ought to be planted each year, and where they ought to be planted -- and paying famers both to plant and not to plant the same crop -- predictably produces both shortages and surpluses.  In both cases, the outcome is bad:
(1.) When the supply of a product goes down, its price rises.  Crop shortages lead to higher food costs.  Exactly how much more we pay for corn and wheat you discover firsthand every time you go to the grocery store, where you often have to pay more than $4 a box for breakfast cereal.
(2.) Because surpluses need to be safely stored until they can be sold, surpluses lead to greater government expenses and, in time, to higher taxes.  We pay more than $5.5 billion a year just to store the surpluses that government micro-management of farmers now creates.  That figure does not include the money we already paid farmers both to plant and not to plant the same crop.
Only God Himself could know how much flaxseed, honey, oats, wheat, corn, soybeans, cotton, butter fat, grain sorghum, sweet potatoes, lettuce and peanuts ought to be produced in America each year, or by whom and where they ought to be produced.  That knowledge is simply impossible for mere humans.  Federal bureaucrats, who seem to think they are God, do not know such things.  Yet, in their insufferable God-aping hubris, they continue to impose their ignorance on the nation and its food supply.  They will not do what they must do:  Unleash the creativity and productivity of American farmers -- the best in the world.  Because each farmer knows his own land, his own equipment and resources, his own skills, and his own market best, farming freedom, not central planning, is the order of the day.
Consider the now legendary case of Stanley Yankus, who was the son of a Lithuanian immigrant and a chicken farmer in Dowagiac, Michigan.  Yankus raised wheat and barley in order to feed his chickens.  He sold none of the wheat and barely he raised.
Even though the Constitution protects us from the loss of life, liberty and property without due process, and even though it provides for equal protection under the law, Yankus was not free to raise feed for his chickens.  The Department of Agriculture decided that 36 states ought to have wheat-growing restrictions while the others do not.   Yankus lived in a state with restrictions.  Not to be able to grow wheat for his own chickens seemed to him the destruction of his freedom to make a living.  It made him feel like a second-class citizens, someone without the freedoms and privileges possessed by others.  So he grew his wheat and fed his chickens.  The Feds fined him for it.  His fines were equal to his entire year’s income.
In his testimony before Congress, Yankus said this:  “Many people have told me that I would lose everything by opposing these wheat laws.  What is everything?  Money is of no value to a slave. I think freedom is everything.”
For Yankus, being a self-sufficient poultry farmer proved impossible.  Loving his freedom and loving his chosen profession, he moved himself and his family to Australia.
We must not let the Feds turn our farmers into Washington's modern-day peasants and serfs.

Stanley Yankus:

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