Write a paragraph response to the debate. First, before reading the debate, note if you are for or against the statement. Then note if your position changed or remained the same after you read the debate (after reading the debate, do you agree more with the pro or con position?) Give any insights on the debate or debate topic.
Topic: Do Subsidies on corn create more problems than they solve?
CON – No, subsidies on corn do not create more problems than they solve.
Hailed as one of the world’s most versatile crops, corn has been around for thousands of years. It is the most widely produced crop in the United States, and about a billion tons are produced globally each year. Over 90 million acres of land in the United States is dedicated to farming corn (American Farm Bureau). It is nutritious, affordable, and adaptable in many diverse growing conditions and climates. Corn is more than just a major food staple for many of our cultures. We use corn to feed our livestock, fuel our cars, and even make our plastic. It is used in so many of our everyday products, that one-quarter of all items found in a grocery store today, now contain corn in some form (Fowler).
Our government was quick to realize corn’s added value to our economy, and its versatility once produced and offered programs and incentives to American farmer’s if they would grow corn exclusively. Since farming is about supply and demand, it made sense to the farmer to grow corn, because it could be stored, and sold later, if the price of corn fell below market value. Unlike, say a tomato, which is harder to grow, and spoils quickly, once picked from the vine. These New Deal farm programs helped the farmer financially, when times were lean, or if their crops were destroyed by nature. The government would loan farmers the difference in the price of corn, or the current market value, if the farmer wanted to wait for a better price, and store the corn, instead of selling.
In the 1970s, all that changed. The price of food was so high, that farmers were killing their baby chickens because they could not afford to feed them (Pollan 51). People were hungry and could not afford to pay the high cost of food. The government decided to change its policy and instead of loaning farmers the difference, they would pay farmers directly for their corn crops. Because of this change, farmers were able to sell their corn at any price above what the government was willing to pay (Pollan 54). These subsidies are what ensured the farmer they wouldn’t go bust, while protecting us, the consumer, from a severe food shortage.
Today, half of all farmer’s net income in the United States comes from government subsidies. Farmer’s depend on subsidies to pay creditors, employees and produce more crop. Subsidies are now our future insurance. Dale Moore, executive director at the American Farm Bureau Federation states “They’re a safety net and a risk management tool whose purpose is to ensure a stable and affordable food supply, given that farmers have no control over the price of their crops or the weather.” These subsidies allow farmers to develop new technologies, as the global demand for fuel, food, and feed, based on corn, continue to escalate. According to Dr. Edgerton, of PubMed magazine, in order to “satisfy the growing, worldwide demand for corn (an additional 200 million tons a year), two broad options are available: (1) The area under production can be increased or (2) productivity can be improved on existing farmland.”
By continuing to develop new farming technologies and using them on a global basis, the demand for feed, fuel, and food can be met, without the commitment of large land areas for increased corn production. Globally, we all rely on corn. Clearly, we need to produce more crops, to meet the increasing demand. Farmer’s need subsidies to forward their farming techniques and technology, and in turn, improve productivity. Farmer’s need financial insurance through subsidies, for their business, community, and most importantly, their family’s security. Without corn subsidies, we would have fewer farmers and fewer crops. America would not be able to meet the increasing global demand for fuel, feed, and food, all of which are based, from corn.
Pollan, Michael. Omnivores Dilemma. The Penguin Press. 2006
Foley, Johnathan. Scientific American. “It’s Time to Rethink America’s Corn System”. 2013 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/time-to...
Fowler, Janet. The Farm Progress. “13 Ways Corn Is Used In Our Everyday Lives.” 2012. https://www.farmprogress.com/vegetables/13-ways-co... (Links to an external site.)
American Farm Bureau Federation. “Corn Harvest Charging Ahead”. 2018. https://www.fb.org/market-intel/corn-harvest-charg... (Links to an external site.)
Edgerton, Michael. American Association of Plant Philosophy. “Increasing Crop Productivity to Meet Global Needs for Feed, Food, and Fuel”. 2017 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC26136...
PRO: Subsidies on corn create more problems than they solve.
“Corporate Welfare” is the term many use to describe Government funded farming subsidiaries. Back in the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Government created a safety net to replace the old New Deal plan that had been created to stabilize the farming industry. This newly created safety net came in the form of subsidies paid out to family farmers. The intention was to keep farmers producing corn when the prices dropped so that the US would not have a food production shortage. Over time, these subsidies continued and grew with the economy, but corn prices continued to stay below production costs.
Today, according to ThoughtCo.com’s article, the US government shells out $25 million annually to farmers. The article goes on to say that despite the public’s general knowledge, most small family farmers do not benefit from federal farm subsidy programs and most of the subsidies go to the largest and most financially secure farm operations. The primary beneficiaries are the largest producers of commodities like corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice. Frobes.com lists the Top 10 Largest U.S. Farm Subsidies Recipients (2008 – 2017) and nick named them the $1M Club. Concordia Allied Producers LLC is the top subsidy receiver of $23, 787,621 while Deline Farms Partnership out of Charleston MO received $14, 053,570, the lowest amount collected. The Forbes.com article also listed 10 facts to think about. Some of the more interesting facts include: The Dept. of Agriculture admitted to $3.7 billion in “improper payments” processed since 2004. Just in the past two years, $650 million in subsidy overpayments were shelled out to farmers. In 2011, the IRS reported that $1.1 billion was paid to 172, 801 deceased farmers over a six-year period, Subsidies flow to urban areas where there are NO FARMS. Between years 2015 – 2017, more than $626 million flowed to recipients in America’s urban areas, residents living in Americas five most populated cities received $18 million in farm subsidies. These cities included Chicago ($7.7 million), Houston ($5.8 million), NYC ($2.8 million), LA ($1.6 million), and Philadelphia ($309,000), prosperous people living in the nation’s 150 most affluent ZIP codes cleaned off nearly $5 million in farm subsidies in 2017. Some of these ZIP codes include: 90210 - Beverly Hills, CA ($15,4888); 10022 – New York City, NY ($83,169); and 96750 – Hawaii County, HI ($230,697), Last year, tax payers forked over $1.8 billion to pay farmers NOT TO FARM THEIR LAND. As a bonus fact, the article stated that the nation’s food supply is NOT in jeopardy. Interestingly enough, Forbes auditors discovered that 12 members of congress collected subsidy money last year, up to $637,059 worth.
As if these facts weren’t enough to shed some light into the current issues with US Government Funded farming subsidy program, there is more evidence to suggest that growing corn isn’t an industry that benefits the average American citizen. The cost of growing a bushel of corn cost more than it earns. Congress is not ready to take payouts away from their fellow members. This program is a mess and something needs to be done about it.
“Omnivore’s Dilema” Pollen
“Mapping the U.S. Farm Subsidy $1M Club” Forbes.com
“Why do taxpayers subsidize rich farmers?” The Washington Post
Paris states that “growing corn isn’t an industry that benefits the average American citizen”, when in fact, corn holds or literally binds (glue is made from corn) our world together. Most of the products the average American consumes is derived from corn. She also mentions something about a food shortage myth, when the bulk of corn that is produced in the U.S. is not used for food, instead, it is used for fuel, to feed our livestock, and in over one-quarter of the everyday items on your average American grocery shelf.
Corn yields are going up! According to Dr. Edgerton, "the average corn yields have increased from approximately 1.6 tons in the first third of the 20th century to today's approximately 9.5 tons.” This improvement in the production of corn is due to new farming technologies, and farm machinery, made possible to the farmer, with government subsidies. She also states that "according to ThoughtCo.com’s article, the US government shells out $25 million annually to farmers.”, but the number is more in the billions, $20 billion (American Farm Bureau), with the bulk going to corn farmers. Corn is obviously a very important commodity in our society if our government is willing to support that fact, by increasing financial support (subsidies) for farmers who grow corn.
Imagine waking up to a world, where you could no longer afford to shop at the grocery store because consumer good prices were so inflated. Maybe last year’s corn crops were destroyed by nature, and the government refused to subsidize those losses. It would be devastating to the average American, just like it was in the Great Depression or most recently, in the 1970s, when the average American housewife was protesting over the price of inflated consumer goods. Dale Moore, executive director at the American Farm Bureau Federation states “They’re a safety net and a risk management tool whose purpose is to ensure a stable and affordable food supply, given that farmers have no control over the price of their crops or the weather.” So yes, we definitely need to ensure, as a democratic society, that our corn farmer’s, are insured. How do we do that? Subsidies for farmers who grow corn.
(1) What would happen if several of the biggest corn crops all failed at the same time? Would we just say, oh well, and not offer subsidies?
Rebuttal and discussion question
Accountability is severely lacking in the Government Farm Subsidy program. The New Deal was initially a program designed to assist farmers by providing loans (Pollan 52) and help a declining farming industry. The New Deal had regulations that included a check and balance system. When the New Deal was replaced with the direct subsidy payments, the check and balance system disappeared. This allowed for the loopholes that has convoluted the system and has filtered a significant portion of the funding into rich corporations.
The U.S. does not need to increase corn production, there is not a shortage. In 2017, taxpayers forked over $1.8 billion to pay farmers not to farm their land. (Forbes) The overproduction led the government to purchase and store extra crops. It is cheaper to pay farmers not to grow more crops according to pbs.org. This is a major problem with the subsidy program and taxpayers are footing the bill.
The farmers receiving the government funding are not the average Joe farmer trying to support his family and provide quality food to the community. The recipients are large corporations, many in the $1 million club, who work in corporate offices and live in wealthy communities. Even some members of congress receive DIRECT subsidy payments. This is a huge conflict of interest.
Question: Do you as a taxpayer want to continue padding the pockets of wealthy CEOs, members of congress and deceased farmers?