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Daren Bakst studies and writes about agriculture subsidies, property rights, environmental policy, food labeling and related issues as The Heritage Foundation’s senior research fellow in agricultural policy. Read his research.
Agricultural special interests try to make it sound as though touching even one farm subsidy—regardless of how unreasonable the subsidy is—will be the end of agriculture as we know it.
Tactics - Claims - Support - Data - Picture
Using scare tactics, they will assert wild claims without any support, or they will cherry-pick data to provide a misleading picture. For example, they often point to declines from record or near-record highs.
The following provides answers to some common claims made by the special interests.
Claim - Farmers
Claim: Farmers are struggling financially.
Reality: The opposite is true. Farm households have far greater median income and wealth than non-farm households.
Income - Farm - Households - Percent - Income
In 2016, the median income of farm households was about 29 percent greater than the median income of all U.S. households. Further, about 70 percent of farm households had incomes above the median for all U.S. households.
The wealth numbers are even more staggering. The median farm household had wealth ($897,000) that was more than nine times greater than the wealth of all U.S. households ($97,300).
US - Department - Agriculture - Percent - Farm
Even more amazing, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture explains, “only 3 percent of farm households had less wealth than the median for all U.S. households.”
When looking at the farm households that actually receive the subsidies, the numbers show how ridiculous the claim is that farmers are struggling.
Respect - Households - Percent - Commodity - Payments
With respect to large family-farm households, which received 32 percent of the commodity payments and 34 percent of crop-insurance indemnities in 2016, their median income was six times greater ($347,000) than that of all U.S. households, and their median wealth of $3.8 million was 39 times greater.
This isn’t to say that every farm household is doing well, nor does it mean that if a household engages in...
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