EWG, Revisited

Yesterday, the big news was EWG’s new farm subsidy database, and rightfully so. Yet again we were reminded of the vital need for strong, effective farm program payment limitations. And fairly predictably, I put up a long and sarcastic post about the King of Farm Programs, Maurice Wilder. When you’re trying to write a blog, it’s a lot easier to be angry and sarcastic, let me tell you.

In yesterday’s post I wrote the following:

Every time EWG updates their database, big commodity groups claim that EWG somehow “distorts” the data for its own purposes….

And when you hear organizations whine about how the King is an aberration, a lone example of farm programs gone bad, don’t believe it.

I stand by those statements. I believe that the vast majority of comments printed in the media are from those big organizations that support unlimited farm program checks, like the ones Maurice Wilder receives. As far as I am concerned, those organizations do not represent family farmers, the vast majority of which support effective farm program payment limits.

But there are many family farmers out there who get ticked off every time the EWG database is in the headlines for different reasons. And one of them posted an excellent comment on EWG’s own blog, Mulch. It is reprinted, unedited, in full here:

Mr. Cook,
You forgot to state that also in this new database is the average income in the area and how many children are in poverty. You have it on my database page. I am a 25 year old farmer that started farming corn and soybeans at age 19. Not with Dad or family or anyone. I have an established business now but I own no real estate. Equipment payments consume most of my income. My equipment loan would be the same as a new business start-up loan to all you non-farm people. I do not live a life of luxury, I work hard to keep the lifestyle I have. Can you please put on my database page that I employ the father of two poverty stricken kids. I give him a paycheck, food, money for the kids' Christmas. I also can't control where that paycheck gets spent. I also utilize no-till practices and grow food-grade white corn. Yes, remember farmers grow food, not grocery stores. So if you think I make $50K a year and ignore the 5,900 kids in poverty in my area you are wrong. So could you please post the information I gave you next to my name in your database. I don't care if the world knows how much subsidy payments I have received. I just don't like the personal attack on every subsidy recipient you have done.

Respectfully,
Adam Michael Betzer Sleeth

Go ahead and read it again. I love this comment, and instead of being angry and sarcastic all the time I should write about this topic more often. Yes, farm programs have serious effects that should be acknowledged, and if you ask me unlimited farm subsidy checks are just all-around evil. But farm programs play an important role in rural America and within the agricultural economy, and the vast majority of farmers are decent, hardworking people who are playing with the hand they’re dealt.

Quite frankly, one of the reasons farm programs get such a bad rap overall is that you can track the payments back to individuals (most of the time). It’s a lot harder to track back the benefits of all the other tax credits and subsidies that the government gives out. Go take a look at the big energy bill the Senate is debating right now- the whole damn thing appears to be a vast collection of corporate subsidies, even if some of those subsidies are for things we should support, such as wind energy. ExxonMobil receives enormous tax credits for oil exploration, and Boeing receives sweetheart government backed financing deals from the Export-Import bank. Government subsidy examples are endless, and those who think farm programs are just the worst example of corporate welfare ever should think again.

So when Adam Sleeth speaks up, everyone should listen. That includes people out in rural America and people (usually concentrated in Washington, DC) who endlessly criticize farm programs without recognizing the farmers who contribute so much to this country. That farm program check Adam receives is doing a lot more good for this world than tax credits for Exxon.

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