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Farm Foolishness

Here’s a letter to USA Today:

You miss the mark in your report that “More than 60% of farmers are over the age of 55, and without young farmers to replace them when they retire the nation’s food supply would depend on fewer and fewer people.  We’d be vulnerable to local economic disruptions, tariffs, attacks on the food supply, really, any disaster you can think of,’ said Poppy Davis, who coordinates the USDA’s programs for beginning farmers and ranchers” (“More young people see opportunities in farming,” Dec. 23).

Americans’ food has depended on fewer and fewer people for centuries.  In 1776 the feeding of every 100 Americans required the work of 90 Americans.  Today the feeding of every 100 Americans requires the work of only 2 Americans.  And yet we are today more abundantly fed than at any time in the past.

Also, if our government really worries that we’re “vulnerable to local economic disruptions, tariffs, [and] attacks on the food supply,” it will find the culprit in the mirror.  The agency that imposes tariffs, price-support, and other policies that artificially reduce supplies of many agricultural goods is none other than Uncle Sam itself.  Most of these policies are designed to make us more dependent than we would otherwise be on American farmers.  These farmers – in addition to often being less efficient than are foreign farmers spread across the globe – are located only in particular parts of America, thus making us more vulnerable to local disruptions.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

HT GMU Law Dean Dan Polsby.  (And Sallie James takes a shot at the USDA.)


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