No more bailouts for factory farms

If your widget factory produces too many widgets, you will be stuck with extra inventory, affecting your bottom line.

In contrast, if your factory farm contributes to excess production of pork, high-level elected officials will ask the federal government to bail you out. I learned from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement today that last week nine governors, including Chet Culver,

requested $50 million of taxpayer money from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) to buy over-produced pork off the market.  This follows similar requests made by the National Pork Producers Council in early May and Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey in June.

The hog factory industry, though, has received two recent taxpayer-funded bailouts from USDA — one for $25 million in March 2009 and the other for $50 million in April 2008 — to buy over-produced pork off the market. […]

Ag economists have warned for months that the pork industry must stabilize prices by trimming the fat and reducing the herd size.  But the pork industry has ignored basic economic rules and continues to increase supply as demand goes down.  This is the result of continuous government subsidies and bailouts to the factory farm industry.

“Corporate ag receives government subsidies and guaranteed loans that promote the expansion of factory farms on the front end,” said CCI member Lori Nelson of Bayard.  “And then, when they produce too much pork, they ask the government — that’s us — to bail them out with huge amounts of taxpayer dollars. The factory farm industry is a house of cards that would crumble as soon as you take away taxpayers propping them up.”

The governors of Nebraska, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Illinois and Oklahoma joined Culver in signing the appeal for federal aid. According to DTN/The Progressive Farmer, “Representatives from the Iowa and the National Pork Producers Councils, Tyson Fresh Foods, Hormel Foods and Paragon Economics support the letter’s three proposals for aid.”

I’ve posted the full text of Iowa CCI’s press release after the jump. There’s no reason to exempt corporate agriculture from basic laws of supply and demand. Taxpayers already pay too much to subsidize factory hog farms.

By the way, Iowa CCI might be willing to cut Culver more slack if the governor had done more during the past three years to address the hidden environmental costs of CAFOs (air and water pollution). It’s also worth noting that Culver has done nothing since his election to push for agricultural zoning at the county level. During the 2006 campaign, Culver said he backed “local control.” Add this to the list of reasons why part of the Democratic base doesn’t approve of Culver’s performance.

LATE UPDATE: The USDA announced plans to buy $30 million of pork in September.

Iowa CCI Members Blast Governor Culver for Factory Farm Bailout Request

Group says Culver is pandering to corporate ag interests

MONDAY, AUGUST 10, 2009, DES MOINES, IOWA — Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement today blasted Iowa Governor Chet Culver for requesting a $50 million, taxpayer-funded bailout of the factory farm industry last week.  CCI leaders said Culver’s request is nothing more than pandering to well-financed corporate ag groups at the expense of everyday people and our environment.  

In a letter last Thursday to President Barack Obama, Culver and eight other Governors requested $50 million of taxpayer money from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) to buy over-produced pork off the market.  This follows similar requests made by the National Pork Producers Council in early May and Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey in June.

The hog factory industry, though, has received two recent taxpayer-funded bailouts from USDA — one for $25 million in March 2009 and the other for $50 million in April 2008 — to buy over-produced pork off the market.

CCI president Barb Kalbach, a family farmer from Adair County, said “We are fed up with bailing out this industry that pollutes our air and water and drives family farmers out of business.  Pres. Obama should deny Culver’s request immediately.  Our public officials should stand up for the common good and the interests of all taxpayers, not for the big-money, special interests of corporate ag.”

Ag economists have warned for months that the pork industry must stabilize prices by trimming the fat and reducing the herd size.  But the pork industry has ignored basic economic rules and continues to increase supply as demand goes down.  This is the result of continuous government subsidies and bailouts to the factory farm industry.

“Corporate ag receives government subsidies and guaranteed loans that promote the expansion of factory farms on the front end,” said CCI member Lori Nelson of Bayard.  “And then, when they produce too much pork, they ask the government — that’s us — to bail them out with huge amounts of taxpayer dollars. The factory farm industry is a house of cards that would crumble as soon as you take away taxpayers propping them up.”

To learn more about what we can do to stand up for the common good and stop taxpayer-support for factory farms, contact Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement at 515-282-0484 or visit iowacci.org for more information.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a group of everyday people who talk, act and get things done on issues that matter most. With thousands of members from all walks of life — urban and rural, black and white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans — CCI has been tackling tough issues and getting things done for more than 30 years.

  • Not a fan of factory farms, so....

    it’s a little odd to dissent (ever-so-slightly) on this, but the need for better animal welfare and environmental regs could be considered separately from trade and subsidy issues.  Some of our trading partners (e.g., Russia) have used Swine Flu as a pretense to institute protectionist measures aimed at building up their domestic hog production.  I’m not convinced that that justifies a subsidy, but it’s an argument that needs to be faced as the strongest basis for the pro position: viz., that producers may rationally have expected that exports would rebound more than they have.

    I guess the issues aren’t entirely separate, since an obvious way to limit herd size would be to mandate more space and better conditions for animals.

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