Sunday, 25 November 2012

...on agricultural subsidy


OK, this is from the States but could easily be describing the Common Agricultural Policy. Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and - along with her students - has become perhaps the first human to read the US government's farm bill.

And the professor said this:

Well, it's so astonishingly irrational it just takes your breath away.

That's right, this monument to Roosevelt's interventionist politics has become - by a process of renewal and incremental addition - something like this:
I opened up the file that was on the Internet and the table of contents was 14 pages long. The entire thing was 663 pages and it's totally incomprehensible.

This my friends is the evil progeny of bureaucratic inertia and the political favour - like the thing that Quatermass found in the pit, it keeps growing, sucking in politicians, fed off by special interests and protected by the system. All we can do is amend - we cannot kill the beast.

And the beast does this: 
Some things are so completely irrational they just take your breath away. For example, if a commodity producer decides to grow vegetables, that producer will either lose all of the subsidies he's getting or will have to plow the vegetables under. They are required by the way this law works to plow them under, treat them with Roundup and kill them, or let them freeze. But they're not allowed to actually grow and sell them.

 Perhaps we should remind ourselves what PJ O'Rourke had to say about the farm bill:

I spent two and a half years examining the American political process. All that time I was looking for a straightforward issue. But everything I investigated — election campaigns, the budget, lawmaking, the court system, bureaucracy, social policy — turned out to be more complicated than I had thought. There were always angles I hadn't considered, aspects I hadn't weighed, complexities I'd never dreamed of. Until I got to agriculture. Here at last is a simple problem with a simple solution. Drag the omnibus farm bill behind the barn, and kill it with an ax.

Agricultural subsidy fails to protect agriculture, doesn't keep farmers on the mad, makes food more expensive for ordinary folk, leads to corruption and means Africans starve to death.

Can we just stop it please?


No comments: