Hog Heaven
Farmers and D.C. pols are co-dependent.


Deroy Murdock

“It makes no sense to tax ethanol from a friendly country like Brazil when we do not tax oil imported from countries like Saudi Arabia,” Gal Luft of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security told the Wall Street Journal.

A new Government Accountability Office report demonstrates that agricultural subsidies and the high prices they trigger are encouraging farmers to plow and plant untouched grasslands that bison and ducks call home. In 2006, 6,245 acres of Montana prairie became farmland, as did 20,592 acres in North Dakota, and 47,167 acres in South Dakota. Simultaneously, the federal Conservation Reserve Program encourages growers to return acreage to nature. As EWG president Ken Cook says: “We have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake.”

Actually, that brake pedal may become another accelerator as farmers abandon their conservation contracts and reactivate retired land to grow subsidized crops. The Blue-Winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, and other waterfowl that nest on such tracts should start packing their bags.

A Byzantine blend of federally dictated production levels, import quotas, loans, and a fixed domestic raw-sugar price of 20.17 cents-per-pound (versus the 10.07-cent world cost) makes U.S. sugar artificially profitable. So, Florida sugarcane plantations drain the Everglades, while phosphorous-laden fertilizer creeps into that mega-wetland. Alligators, frogs, manatees, and shrimp pay dearly for this gargantuan folly.

In 2000, Congress launched the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a 30-year, $10.5 billion project to reverse the rape of the Everglades — which Washington continues through sugar-coated socialism.

Meanwhile, Latin Americans who could fill America’s sugar bowls slam into trade walls. So, they produce other commodities, including cocaine.

“The two best things one could do for conservation are to eliminate the World Bank and U.S. agriculture programs,” says Terry Anderson, Executive Director of the Property and Environment Research Center, a Bozeman-based free-market-environmentalist think tank that recently hosted me as a media fellow. “The World Bank does the damage overseas, and our agriculture programs do the damage at home.”

Sadly, expecting Washington to kill its latest five-year plan, and establish an agricultural free market, is like asking a pack of heroin dealers and junkies to ditch their vials and needles and join a gym. Seeing politicians and growers swap cash for votes is ugly enough. But the real tragedy is watching co-dependent politicians and farmers jointly smack Mother Nature.

– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.


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