Ag Policy Blog

Responding to EWG's Capitol View

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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I never thought I would write a blog about a column someone else wrote responding to an opinion piece, but what the heck.

Tom Sell's commentary posted on on Wednesday demonstrates some of the problems facing agricultural policy in Washington. The voices of agricultural critics are louder and coming from all sides. This now becomes one of the downsides of the delays in completing a farm bill.

Sell's commentary was forwarded to me by another farmer who wrote that the article was worth our time to read.

Sell's column was in response to an op-ed by Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group. Faber had penned his op-ed for Politico on July 17. The Faber column was headlined "Worst. Farm Bill. Ever." As Faber noted, "It might come as a bit of shock that House Republicans overwhelmingly voted to pass a bill that increases government-backed insurance subsidies by nearly $10 billion. After all, they have voted 36 times to end taxpayer-financed subsidies to expand health-care coverage.

"In fact, 48 Republicans who voted against the farm bill that failed in the House in mid-June switched their votes this month to support a bill that not only increased unlimited subsidies but also locked them in forever."

A column such as that in Politico gets attention. Hill staffers, congressmen, lobbyists and straying visitors from flyover country have free access to publications such as Politico, the Hill and Roll Call. They are as much a part of the daily bread as the stale bagels at the Longworth cafeteria. I like to read them when I'm in D.C. just to see what the trends are in advertised lobbying on any given budget item.

Sell had a strong, critical response to Faber's commentary. As Sell notes," Faber has made a living of playing big vs. small and making full-time farm families out to be the bad guys. So he complains “the bottom 80 % get less than $5,000 apiece.” But those bottom 80 percent aren’t full-time farmers. To be in Faber’s small and worthy category, your total sales (gross sales — not net income) has to be less than $50,000. For row crop farmers, that is about a 50-acre plot which has not been enough to make a living for about a century or so. This 80% of “farmers” makes up just 4 percent of total production. They are part-time farmers, that while important to rural America do not feed and clothe the country. Our greater concern should be for the full-time farmers — those grossing greater than $250,000 who make up only 9.85 % of the total, but produce more than 85% of total goods."

Yet, the effect of Sell's piece is limited because it lacks the same kind of medium that was offered to Faber.

Moreover, Faber and EWG are prolific in their campaigns right now against different elements of agriculture. By the time Sell has his article posted on, Faber and a fellow EWG staffer have moved on, both in lobbying and sharing their opinions a Politico piece on July 29, "Reform the Ethanol Mandate."

Once again, the Beltway environmentalist was given a Capitol Hill audience to further pontificate about reshaping another rural policy issue. Faber, it seems, is never short of views on ways Congress should make changes in rural America.…

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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John Olson
8/7/2013 | 6:37 AM CDT
We all know everything about Obamacare is inferior Jay.
Jay Mcginnis
8/6/2013 | 11:30 AM CDT
Ah John, the reason they don't want Obama care is they have a much better health care then Obama care,,, do you remember that when Obama care was being crafted that they wanted it to be exactly like the same system the Congress was getting? Do you remember who said it was too "socialist"? Now you guys can't go twisting this because you didn't want the general population to get the same care as the government workers.
John Olson
8/2/2013 | 7:10 AM CDT
As far as democrats taking care of themselves Jay, see
John Olson
8/2/2013 | 7:02 AM CDT
Billions for the farm welfare kings and queens, billions for Obama phones and other vote buying schemes, it does not take long for the trillions to add up. See
Jay Mcginnis
8/2/2013 | 5:43 AM CDT
GOP is the "free market",,, corporations freely donate to them and they freely take care of them,,,, after all corporations are people!
melvin meister
8/1/2013 | 7:41 PM CDT
Chris please keep on writing even if the right wing of the politically impared thinks that the free market will reward then because they critisize you.Great writing.
Bonnie Dukowitz
8/1/2013 | 10:24 AM CDT
And in what industry does that not occur, John. Example; Do you think medical facilities selling diabetis shoes for what one can purchase the identical, for half the cost, at the shoe store, paid for by medicare, not make crop insurance look like a pimple on a rhinos' rear? One can splurge on pasta, qualify for free shoes and not have diabetis at all. Things like this example occur, big time.
John Olson
8/1/2013 | 9:05 AM CDT
Maybe Don because your incremental solutions always include billions more of insane and mindless government spending that continue to inflate land values and provide massive benefits to those who need the help the least.
Don Thompson
8/1/2013 | 8:53 AM CDT
Chris, I appreciate your apparent overall understanding of how and why we have a farm bill that includes commodity and nutrition programs, and the history of their inception. Please continue in this vein. However, based on the comments of your readers and the actions of their elected reps, I conclude they would rather see a complete collapse of the rural and national economy than work through incremental solutions that mark this formerly successful and competent country.
Bill Billson
8/1/2013 | 8:13 AM CDT
Chris, how about a blog post stating why a commodity farm bill is needed at all? The only purpose it serves is to buy votes by shoveling piles of cash to multimillionaire farmers, crop insurance agencies and other stakeholders. The taxpayers would be much better off without the program and weathy farmers can get by without buying thst extra lake home and luxury car each year. Why dont you interview some smaller farmers? I bet they will say do away with the bill that tips the scales towards the big boys OR does reality not fit your agenda?????
John Olson
8/1/2013 | 7:56 AM CDT
So Sell's solution is to come up with more government schemes to make sure those part time farmers never have any chance of competing with those whose land values have been insanely inflated by insane government spending on insurance schemes that guarantee crop investments and in many cases massive profits. Oh I forgot, that is what congress has been doing for decades. Speaking of making changes in rural America, government schemes that provide benefits of the greatest value to those with the greatest probability of the greatest profits have been very effective at depopulating rural America. I don't suppose it has ever occurred to you Chris that many of those part time farmers would love to be full time farmers and that insane government programs are destroying that opportunity for these individuals.