I was raised on a small family farm. I often heard about the intrusion of the government into the farming operations. I even heard my uncle talk about going to the “hammer and cycle shop” when going to the FSA office, called the ASC office back then. In trying to understand the government programs, I was often confused. I could not understand how the government could pay you for not planting crops. As I got older, it became a little clearer. When I took history and economics in high school and college, I realized it had to do with the laws of supply and demand.
Back in the 1930’s during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt was attempting to “fix” the problems of this economic collapse. His “brain trust” figured American farmers were producing too much, thus the huge supply was driving the price down. To give incentives to farmers to reduce the supply, the government started paying farmers to reduce their crops. Of course, the hungry citizens were outraged. Using tax dollars for this purpose was outrageous.
You probably did not want to hear an elementary history and economics lesson at this point. However, this is where the federal government began their involvement with the farm community. Farmers have continued their success even further today. You probably have seen the sign on the way to Manhattan which says one farmer feeds enough for 150 people. The story is incredible.
Many farmers have been successful with the help of government or in spite of its help.
Farm programs continue to this day. It has become increasingly difficult for Congress to pass a farm bill. There are so many aspects of the farm bills, which large and small farmers do not like. In such a bureaucratic maze, there is much for any farmer to dislike. The idea of food stamps being involved was a new one to me. I have only been involved in a very small way as of late, but this news prompted some research on my part. Food stamps were tied to the farm program back in the 1960’s. Agricultural secretary, Orrville Freemen, added food stamps to the farm bill to appease those representatives from urban areas. By now the urban areas were beginning to outflank the rural areas. Again, Supreme Court rulings ordered states to redraw the Congressional districts to reflect the population shifts. Urban power was overtaking rural control.
I had heard about food stamps before, but my knowledge was very inadequate. I knew it was food for people on limited income, or so I thought. My question, “Was it a good idea to merge it with the farm program?” Of course, in the back scratching and horse trading of politics good ideas are often lost. After researching and talking to farmers, I am still not sure what we should do with food stamps.
Page 2 of 2 - I discovered that 45 million Americans receive food stamps. Income requirements vary from state to state. Some states are more stringent than others. Few are required to work. One of the requirements in the new farm Bill, which passed the House, would be to require applicants to find a job. This version has no chance of passing the Senate.
I also found in searching for information that about 92 percent of the recipients of food stamps are elderly, children or disabled. It would seem that most Americans would not want to deny these benefits to the most vulnerable of our population. We do not know how many of these applicants lied about their situation. One of the problems with administering government programs is issuing benefits to those who need it and not giving to those who are “just living off the government.” How do we insure that the program is fair and equitable to all? Can we guarantee that our tax dollars will be used in the most efficient way?
Would there be a better chance for both the actual farm interest of the farm program and the food stamps to be administered more fairly if they were separated into two entities. Or is this “pie in the sky” thinking?
In almost every government program I can think of, there is some degree of fraud and other types of corruption. It is always difficult to control services on a broad scale. Is it possible to turn over these programs to private businesses? Can we be assured that the corporate world would be immune from corruption? Can we be convinced that those who desperately need these services will be afforded them when the main goal for private business is profit?
The preceding questions have faced our republic since its beginning. As our population continues to grow and becomes more diverse, we will continue to ask for more services and benefits from government. How can we balance the entrepreneurial side of private enterprise with the essentials of government?
Abraham Lincoln said that we should only use government to do those things we cannot do for ourselves. Is that still true in our modern technological world? And where do food stamps and the farm program fit into this arrangement?