Michael Rathbone
Missouri has been dealing with some harsh weather conditions. Drought conditions in some parts of the state are "exceptional." Needless to say, the impact on the state's livestock and crops has been quite detrimental. Thus, it should come as no surprise to anybody that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared the entire state of Missouri a disaster area.

In response to this emergency, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued Executive Order 12-08, which will:
" . . . authorize the State Soil and Water Districts Commission to implement an emergency cost share program for water source development and/or water distribution practices to assist landowners engaged in livestock or crop production adversely impacted by the current drought."

I am no fan of government handouts to agriculture. While this particular program does not strike me as an egregious waste of public money, I am still inclined to think that it is a bad idea. Droughts harm farmers by reducing their income, and harm consumers by reducing the available food, which increases prices. Farmers’ crops should be — and are — insured, however, with federally subsidized crop insurance (which has its own issues). Thus, losses suffered due to this drought can be mitigated. International free trade would allow providers worldwide to supply demanded goods to consumers at the lowest possible price. Government barriers need to be removed. Impediments to more effective water pricing should also be changed.

Water sources need to be developed and the governor’s order is an attempt to do so, but I have yet to see a reason why these sources cannot be developed privately. If there is a law preventing private water development, get rid of the law. If the private sector cannot do it economically, then why should non-farmer taxpayers subsidize a government project that cannot be justified economically?

About the Author

Michael Rathbone
Policy Researcher
Michael Rathbone was a policy researcher at the Show-Me Institute. He is a native of Saint Louis and a 2008 graduate of Saint Louis University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering.