One measure of the inanity of our national farm policy is that you, as a taxpayer, are paying me not to grow crops here in Oregon.
I grew up on a sheep and cherry farm here in Yamhill, Ore., and still have some timberland outside of town. Every year I get paid $588 not to farm it, under the Conservation Reserve Program.
Actually, I don't entirely agree with this part. The Conservation Reserve Program isn't just “paying to not farm”, but paying to subsidize the cost of providing better water quality and wildlife habitat -- public goods on private land -- instead of farming.
When I planted new Douglas fir seedlings on my land, care for the young trees was also subsidized. So America provides health care for tree seedlings but not for millions of children.
Maybe uninsured American children who can’t get adequate health care could masquerade as cotton plants or cornstalks. Then the farm bill would shower them with money and care.
In contrast, one way to assist family farms would be to underwrite rural broadband, just as rural electrification transformed farms in the last century. Then rural businesses might stand a chance.
This is the critical part! In Oregon, we invest millions when we bring acreage into an urban growth boundary by building roads, running water, sewer, telecom so business and home development investments can flourish. But no where do we continue to invest in the rural areas like that. Broadband to rural areas, high quality cell phone coverage. The kind of things rural America and family farms need to compete. The consequence is that small farmers have to make outside investments, or do without, in order to have the same thing most people have direct to the their houses. Satelitte internet costs about $800 installed and costs 3-5X per month what the equivalent service would cost in cities.