The Farm Bills
Cartoon by Mike Keefe
This cartoon, by Mike Keefe in May of 2008, is a humorous crack at the corporate corruption within the farm bills that the U.S. passes every five years or so. The idea of a ‘farm bill’ originated as part of FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression, called the Agriculture Adjustment Act. The idea behind this legislature was to compensate farmers for not growing crop on a percentage of their land, in order to induce market growth and raise the selling price of crops. With this bill the Department of Agriculture was given the power to more or less regulate the agricultural market. Farmers in desperate need for income, took the subsidies and were instructed to not use certain acres of their land. If the prices did not go up, then the Government guaranteed a minimum price per bushel contained in federal loans. This was good and well as the prices stabilized and caused food production to grow and flourish, until 1936, when the AAA was found unconstitutional. A new, temporary farm bill was put together as a solution, but was not made permanent until 1973. In current times, an average of $2,000 per tax payer per year has been put into agricultural support, though only 75% of agricultural support has gone to only 10% of subsidy receivers (Barber).
Ironically, the 10% that receive the majority of the benefits within recent years are companies such as Cargill, Continental, Bunge, ADM, Tyson and Smithfield, some of the largest Agricultural businesses in the nation. Many critics of the farm bills claim that the authors and re-writers have investments in the big farms and therefore continue to use this legislature for in their own self-interest. Theoretically, farm subsidies should help small, family farms more than large corporations, but attaining these subsides remain incredibly difficult and burdensome. Those who barely make ends meet by plowing their own fields and harvesting their own crops don’t have the time or funds to get into this questionable business (Sphairon).Consequently, all these subsides go straight to the big companies, which gives them another advantage over their smaller competitors. Big agribusiness siphons off the majority of the farm bill subsides, taking advantage of the overbearing system that small farms don’t have the means to effectively use.
The Hot Air article “Yes, the “new and improved” farm bill is still chock-full of agribusiness pork,” testifies that the corporate corruption that surrounded the farm bills of the past is still present, even in more recent re-issues of the bill. The article states that on top of unequal distribution, the 2013 farm bill cost taxpayers almost $1 trillion, about $300 billion more than the 2008 bill. The article goes on to weigh in on the outdated system of farm subsidies, specifically price guarantees for crops, where the author humorously comments that we should also have price guarantees “for gold, running shoes, and umbrellas” (Johnsen). Supporters of the bill claim that after over the next decade legislators will be cutting spending, saving taxpayers upwards of $20 billion dollars. While this may be true, the figure of $20 billion dollars is relatively negligible compared to the enormity of the trillion dollars budgeted for the 2013 version. Politicians have no issue with dishing out such a large amount of money, given that evidence shows it’s going to end up back in their own pockets.
In his cartoon, Keefe depicts the irony of the intention of the farm bill versus the corruption that actually takes place. As illustrated, “Farm Bill” airplanes drop loads of money labeled $300 billion over two large farms called “Big Agribiz.” It is easy to see that the “Small Farm” located in between the two large farms are not receiving any of the money being dropped by the planes. The irony is tied together with the man in a business suit speaking to the farmer in front of the small farm saying, “Feel id in the air? Another great year!” referring to the money falling from the sky. So here is a businessman, presumably involved in big agriculture business telling the local farmer about how excited he is about the free money from the sky, that the small farmer will never see any of. The point of the farm bill program, was to equalize the agricultural market, and level the playing field for small farms. The fact is, that the opposite has happened, large companies received the majority of the government assistance, and eventually started buying up the less fiscally secure farms. As a result the big farms got bigger and local, family farms began to rapidly decrease. Inevitably, the large farming corporations became a huge political lobbying force. So now the people who had the power to change the corrupt system had vested interest in these large companies, and would be reluctant to lose out on the profits. The business man in the cartoon represents either the Argribusiness executives or the politicians who’ve wet their beak in the industry. The man in the cartoon is obviously excited about the subsides, but appears to have a sarcastic and spiteful attitude toward the local farmer, who’s is obviously getting the bad end of a deal.
Barber, Tate. “How the Farm Bill Has Affected You Daily: Part 1.” Tate Barber. N.p., 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Johnsen, Erika. “Yes, the “new and Improved” Farm Bill Is Still Chock-full of Agribusiness Pork.” Hot Air. N.p., 16 June 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
Keefe, Mike. Unkown. Digital image. The Public Choice Capitalist. WordPress, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Munro, Donna. “Farm Bill: Cut Subsidies to Big Agriculture.” The Seattle Times. The Seattle Times, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
Smith, Dan. “Senate Farm Bill Continues Giant Giveaways to Big Agribusiness.” U.S. PRIG. N.p., 11 June 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.
Sphairon. “Road to Rothbard: February 2009.” Road to Rothbard: February 2009. Blogspot, 20 Feb. 2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.