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Published: Thursday, 5/12/2011

Farmed out

Farm subsidies, both corporate and individual, will cost U.S. taxpayers $16 billion this year. Getting a handle on these payments is essential to trimming the deficit in the short run and rolling back the national debt in the long term.

The House Republican budget proposal would eliminate $30 billion in subsidies over the next decade, lowering their annual total to about $13 billion. Whether this cut is enough is open to question, since small farms have mostly been supplanted by company-owned ones with factory-raised chickens and pigs.

Defenders of farm subsidies raise the strategic argument: What if America could no longer feed itself because it didn’t support its farmers financially? What if it were menaced by China or the latest post-bin Laden bogeyman?

But agricultural commodity prices and farm income generally have remained stable for a long time. Why can’t the farm industry forgo at least $3 billion a year in subsidies to boost the cause of a financially sound United States?

Congress is about to take up that question. Brace yourself for the screaming.

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