A Country That Raises Corn and Cotton … With a Little Help From the Government
I don’t have a precise answer to the Show-Me Institute Question of the Week, which asks which lifestyles are most heavily subsidized, but I agree with David Stokes that rural communities should be high on the list. The first rural subsidies that come to mind are agricultural ones, like the cotton subsidies that appear in this Southeast Missourian article. Here’s the rationale behind them:
Michael Milam, an agronomy specialist with the Missouri Extension in Kennett, Mo., said that underscores the important role subsidies play in the survival of farmers.
“The subsidies have kept farmers in business,” Milam said. “The help from the government allows the farmers to compete on a level playing field with the rest of the world’s cotton producers. If the farmers that produced not only cotton but other crops dropped out because they didn’t receive the subsidies, I believe you’d see a domino effect of higher prices passed onto the consumer.”
The effect of ending the subsidies wouldn’t be as disastrous as this specialist imagines. Everyone could enjoy a lower tax burden if the government stopped paying Missouri farmers to grow crops that could be grown more cheaply someplace else. And there’s no reason to assume farmers who grow both cotton and more profitable crops would drop out of farming altogether. More likely, they would concentrate on raising crops that the market will pay for.
We shouldn’t try to level the playing field between Missouri and other places, because it’s a waste of money. We could pay farmers to grow oranges and level the playing field between us and Florida, but what would be the point? We can just ship in oranges with less trouble and expense. It’s the same for cotton and all the other crops that don’t bring in a profit when grown in Missouri.