Saturday, February 12, 2005

Farmers shaken by Bush proposal to cut farm subsidies

From AP: President Bush, in his budget plan released Monday, is proposing to cut farm subsidies by 5 percent this year, cap them at $250,000 per farm and reduce overall spending by about one-third over across the next decade.

"I expect when it's all said and done the rice industry will sustain cuts. The question is how much?" said Rehermann, who along with 5,300 other rice growers in Northern California received $260 million in federal crop subsidies in 2003.

From North Dakota wheat country through the Midwest Corn Belt to the South's cotton fields, farmers who considered their government payments guaranteed are worried.
In many farm states that helped re-elect Bush in November after never hearing any campaign talk about cutting their payments, there is a sense of betrayal.

"I'm not happy. I voted for George Bush," said cotton grower John Rife of Ferriday, La.
By proposing such cuts, Bush has reignited a long debate in farm communities and urban America about the government's Depression-era practice of subsidizing what are now the world's most productive farms.

Critics say the subsidies benefit mostly large agribusiness corporations rather than small family farms, contribute to excessive federal spending and act as a barrier to free trade. An EWG analysis found that 10 percent of recipients get 72 percent of the nation's farm aid.

Personally, I agree with the "critics" referenced above that, however noble farm subsidies may once have been, they are now corporate welfare, and should largely be phased out. I must also admit that Shrub's specific proposal actually sounds rather progressive.

But the schmuck the AP quoted? Mr. Rife, if you are a struggling working or middle class guy and expected Dubya to cover your ass; if you thought he somehow shared your "values" and are thus the living embodiment of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas; if you bought the Republican con about how they were your friends -- then I am only sorry that your comeupance has such dire costs for the rest of us.


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