Policy & Politics

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Stallman Defends Direct Payments

Published Jun. 1, 2009

In a letter to the editor sent today to the Boston Globe, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman defended direct payments as a basic safety net for the 98 percent of U.S. farms that are owned and run by families. An editorial in Tuesday’s Globe labeled direct payments as entitlements for corporate farms that need to end.  Below is the full text of Stallman’s letter:
 
Contrary to your May 26 editorial regarding direct payments to “large agribusinesses,” most farm benefits help provide a basic safety net of support to the 98 percent of our nation’s farms that are owned and run by families. Whether these family businesses are incorporated or not is only semantics and is typically done for tax purposes. Family business structure has no bearing, nor should it minimize the fact that they are still family-owned operations.
 
When I talk about the “farm level,” it means exactly that. Farmers are price-takers not price-makers. Because of rising costs of energy, fertilizer and other farm inputs, most farms (whether selling $500,000 of agricultural products or not) see a very slim profit margin, if any at all. Yet, the U.S. continues to have one of the most affordable food supplies in the world, even though many other countries subsidize their farmers with up to double the support as the U.S. What little taxpayers really pay to help farmers (one-half of 1 percent of the entire federal budget) is significantly realized in the overall quality, safety and affordability at the grocery store.
 
Any change in farm support would not only put many farms in financial jeopardy, it would reverberate throughout the rural communities they support, affecting local schools, hospitals and other critical rural institutions, not to mention locally owned farm supply stores and equipment dealers. I firmly believe our system of family-oriented agriculture is worthy of the small public investment it receives. Agriculture is the backbone of America. What happens at the farm level could have significant consequences not only in rural communities across the country, but also in where our food is grown and the price tag we end up paying.



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