Our View: Bailout program shifts playing field for farmers

Published 9:25 am Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The federal government’s plans to pay back farmers for the losses they’re suffering because of our ongoing trade wars keep getting more convoluted, less efficient and worse for the economy.

New reporting from The Associated Press has now shone a light on how bigger farms are dodging a cap that was supposed to limit government payments to $125,000 per farm.

“The government paid out nearly $2.8 million to a Missouri soybean-growing operation registered as three entities at the same address,” according to the AP report. “More than $900,000 went to five other farm businesses, in Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and two in Texas. Three other farming operations collected more than $800,000. Sixteen more collected over $700,000. And the data lists more than 3,000 recipients who collected more than the $125,000 cap.”

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One of those big farms is a Kentucky operation — Peterson Farms, which “collected a total $863,560 for crops they grow on over 15,000 acres in seven counties,” according to the AP.

It’s definitely a problem that big farms are better able to recoup their losses from rising tariffs than little farms. That’s bad news for a lot of local farmers who truly run family businesses.

But it’s also definitely not the fault of the bigger farmers that things are playing out like this. As far as we can tell, the big farms aren’t taking anything away from the little farms; they’re just using their more substantial resources to weather the storm a little better.

Even after skirting the theoretical cap, many big farmers are still going to lose money compared to what they would make if the federal government wasn’t playing games with trade.

What we’re seeing now is just one example of how over-meddling in the free market depresses the economy, makes things overly complicated and often fails to achieve the original goals of the meddling.

Instead of farmers growing their crops, harvesting their crops and selling their crops, we have a very different ecosystem in place now. The government’s ridiculous bailout program shifts the entire playing field. In order to survive, farmers must now try to harvest government payments instead of crops.

It’s a good thing when farms stay in business, because they don’t just provide jobs for farmers; they indirectly support jobs for all the people who do business with farmers. In Kentucky, that’s a lot of people.

So in a backwards way, we’re fortunate big farmers did figure out how to game the government’s silly system, because the economy might be crashing and burning if they hadn’t. But it would have been a lot easier and cheaper if the government had never created the risk of crashing and burning in the first place.

The U.S. could still fix this whole mess by ending its juvenile attempts to fix global trade just so.

If America would go back to doing what it’s good at — free market economics — then farmers could go back to doing what they’re good at — farming.