‘No’ crowd opposes strong U.S. farm policy

For decades, agriculture’s adversaries have said “no” to almost any policy that helped farmers.

When farm policy was reformed to be more free-market oriented, critics said it wasn’t enough. When the agricultural sector stood alone and volunteered funding cuts to help close America’s budget deficit, critics said it wasn’t enough. When farmers began contributing to their own safety net through crop insurance to offset risk to taxpayers, critics said it wasn’t enough.

And now that the 2014 Farm Bill has come in tens of billions under budget, critics still say it isn’t enough.

“No” appears to be the only message the Environmental Working Group, Heritage Foundation, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Club for Growth and other perennial farm policy opponents are capable of delivering.

And they set a “national summit” in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4 to discuss new ways to say no.

Could farmers or the public attend this summit?

No. But, if it were an open meeting, some tough questions would likely follow. For example:

Do EWG, Heritage and others think it’s awkward to advocate the elimination of tools like crop insurance that farmers will need to rebuild following the hurricanes?

No. The crowd was to hear opening remarks from a senator who introduced legislation to effectively dismantle crop insurance just after Hurricane Harvey decimated the Gulf Coast and Irma was bearing down on Florida.

Will Heritage rethink its “Blueprint for Agricultural Policy” now that a former USDA official called out the group for cherry-picking USDA data and including non-farm income to distort agriculture’s financial picture?

No. In fact, Heritage just doubled down on its analysis and accused the former USDA official of opposing “freedom in agriculture,” whatever that means.

Will groups like the American Enterprise Institute stop paying professors with conflicts of interest to prepare its advocacy materials … especially after Politico exposed AEI’s “American Boondoggle” series, which was released during the last farm bill?

No. These papers are a big source of fundraising, and the American Enterprise Institute is planning to release a follow-up series later this month.

Do free-trade advocates like Club for Growth recognize the hypocrisy of lobbying to dismantle U.S. farm policy while saying nothing of increased ag subsidies and trade roadblocks in other countries?

No. Not even after a top trade attorney in D.C. took critics to task for ignoring foreign subsidies and weakening America’s ability to advance free trade in agriculture on a global scale. As the attorney noted, unilateral disarmament is not a sound farm policy; it’s a recipe for foreign dependence.

Do extreme libertarian members of the anti-farm crowd mind working with EWG, which recently proposed a slew of costly environmental regulations for rural America? Conversely, do extreme environmentalists like U.S. PIRG mind that their libertarian counterparts support cutting Farm Bill projects that promote conservation, education and nutrition?

No. Apparently, ideology can be malleable when it is expedient, which explains the meeting. With that, here’s one final question to consider:

Does anyone actually agree with the “no” crowd that America is better off without strong policies that defend our country’s food security?

No. Thankfully, most Americans are far more sensible. According to a 2016 poll, eight in 10 Americans believe agriculture is critical to the country’s security, and 92 percent said it was important to provide farmers with federal funding.

Yes, that makes a lot more sense.

Phillip Hayes manages Farm Policy Facts, a national coalition dedicated to educating lawmakers about the benefits of a strong farm policy. Members include the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, American Sugar Alliance, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Cotton Council, National Crop Insurance Services, Southwest Council of Agribusiness, and USA Rice Federation.

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