In American society, we accept subsidies to corporations and small
businesses and rationalize that they are necessary. When a corporation
fails to pay taxes because it made less profit than the previous year,
that is a subsidy. When a comapany is facing bankruptcy and loss of
jobs of its employees, the Federal government provides subsidies to get
it back on its feet. When corporations agree to expand their operations
abroad, they are given tax incentives and other monetary perks to
encourage the expansion, etc. This is a subsidy. We defend these
subsidies as vital and necessary for the economy.
However, when small farmers receive subsidies to help them survive
because the prices they receive for their products are lower than what
it cost to produce, we condemn these practices. Farmers are told that
they must get big or get out because subsidies lead to lack of
Farm subsidies bring income into a rural area which helps keep the area
viable. The farmer remains in business, he/she spends money in the
community and contributes to the community's strength. When a farmer
needs some help from the government to help the farm business, the
farmer is treated with contempt and is told the problem is bad managment
because other farmers are able to exist with less subsidies or no
subsidies. What nonsense!
If subsidies are needed to keep small farmers in business around the
country, that is good for agriculture and the economy. Why do we accept
small businesses in the urban sector but we object to small businesses
in the rural sector?
Real capitalism should be able to spread the wealth among as many
individuals as are able to obtain it through their own initiatives. One
of the best ways to do that in America is by operating a small business.
When we walk down a street in any city, we see small neighborhood
stores, e.g. food stores, clothing stores, toy stores, hardware stores,
etc. Many people shop in those stores and support their neighborhood
businesses. Even if they pay a little more, it is good for all parties
and spreads the wealth among many individuals. This is real capitalism.
I would rather have small farms in every state producing our foods than
the corporate farms who concentrate the wealth into the hands of a few
and have little or no connection to their communities. Small farms in
every state would keep our rural communities economically strong, and
enable all those who want to farm to remain on the land. If it takes
subsidies to do this we should be in favor of subsidies. If we have to
pay a little more for our food so that we can have a viable agricultural
sector, we should be prepared to do it.
Criticizing small farmers and telling them that their financial problems
are due to their own management incompetence plays into the hands of
those who think that the sign of a progressive country is one that can
produce food with as few agricultural units as possible. What is so
progressive about destroying your rural infrastructure and creating
abandoned communities around the country because the inhabitants of
those communities were forced to flee to the cities?
Are advocates of free market and "get big or get out" willing to
eliminate all the small businesses in the urban areas and concentrate
the selling of goods into the hands of two or three conglomerates who
will sell everything? What a sad day that would be for American
When we are prepared to stop all privileges for big business and not
offer tax breaks, low interest loans, subsidies, and other perks then we
can take a look at the privileges to agriculture. Otherwise, subsidies
may continue to be necessary to maintain some segments of American
farming for a long time to come.
I have never farmed. But I have been a agricultural librarian for over
25 years and have seen how the literature portrays the small farmer and
the benefits they receive. A farmer who receives subsidies is treated
with suspicion and disdain. Why do we perpetuate a double standard?
It is time we treat agriculture with the same considerations as the
These opinions are my own. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to
the dialogue on this listserv.
Agriculture Resource Librarian
Library of Science and Medicine