Money For Nothing By
We told you a while back about the Virginia Department of Agriculture and its program to promote our agriculture, the $10 Challenge. If each household were to spend ten bucks on Virginia-grown products each week it would add $1.65 billion to our statewide economy. That’s great, seeing as how farms are 32% of the state, and 90% of our farms are owned by individuals or families. And you’re probably aware, by now, of how we feel about family farmers. We like them.
So now it’s time for our Federal Government to get going on some farm stimulus. They argue the funding of our food supply each year come budget time, and the Senate Agriculture Committee gives it a good thrashing about every five years. A nationwide survey asked average Americans (people like, oh, you and me) what they thought should happen with agriculture and the Federal Budget. Here’s what we said:
- 78% were in favor of more nutritious food and making it more available
- 69% wanted to see fewer chemicals used by food producers
- Over half wanted to see subsidies end for crops like corn and soybeans
- 75% said that helping family farms should be of high importance
In a resounding Bi-partisan effort, our elected Federal officials listened to what we had to say, and thought long and hard about it.
Most of the funding in the bill is going to go to large, commercial commodity crop farms. These are big conglomerate farms that primarily grow corn, soy, cotton, rice, and wheat. That first one is mostly used for animal feed and the rest are filler products. While not necessarily bad for you, they are not being used for nutritional purposes, but rather to bulk up your junk food.
There is a big chunk of change that goes to entitlement programs and crop insurance programs for these big producers. Most of these are in the form of “crop insurance.” It will pay out to a farmer if there is a drought, a massive flood, or a plague of locusts. Problem is, 90% of this money goes to farms that are already operating at a profit, and almost $5 billion goes straight to insurance companies and not the farmers. There are millions of acres of farmland that are used for corn. Less than 10% of that is grown for human consumption, and these guys are double dipping. They also get a handout from the ethanol bloc.
Many of the programs that promote local food, organic research, or fixing food deserts in our cities get a couple of million, but the crop insurance program gets $9 BILLION! When more and more of our farms are dying and family farms are facing foreclosure a program that promotes farming for newbies and younger folks gets $10 million. Keep in mind that the average age of a farmer in America is 57, and it’s hard freaking work. Programs that promote sustainability, conservation, and environmental stewardship went out with the bathwater and got pocket change.
Bees. You know that we like them. Many in our Commonwealth got a serious buzz in their bonnet when it was announced that Governor McDonnell signed a bill awarding beekeepers $200 for every new hive. “What a waste of taxpayer money,” they brayed. There are about 2,500 beekeepers in Virginia and they tend about ten hives apiece. If they threw all of them out and started from scratch it would cost us $5 million to start ‘em back a buzzing again. The actual fund is less than $200,000. Compared to handouts that are a “$” sign followed by a “B” that sounds like a drop in the hive.