May 13, 2021

Myth-busters: Farm policy misconceptions debunked

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — There are common misconceptions among those not involved in farming about agriculture policy and some of those myths were debunked by Farm Policy Facts.

Bart Fischer, Agricultural and Food Policy Center co-director at Texas A&M, addressed several myths in a webcast hosted by Farm Policy Facts, a coalition of farmers and commodity groups created to educate legislators and Americans about the importance of farming.

Myth: U.S. farm policy gives preferential treatment and payments go to corporate agriculture.

Fischer: “That’s really a pervasive myth that’s been out there for a really long time, and frankly we’ve had debates about big versus small and who should and shouldn’t get support since we’ve had farm bills dating back almost 100 years. There is this myth that support goes to big companies, and it is just that, a myth. The reality is we have payment limitations in place. We ha ve means tests that if you’re above a certain level you can’t participate in these programs.”

Myth: Farm subsidies go to large food agribusinesses.

Fischer: “North of 98% of the production in this country is still owned and operated on family farms, and so it’s going to family farms. I think part of the problem with all of this is it creates this dichotomy where you’re either small/medium or you’re some big corporation. The problem is that leaves out all of the family farms in this country who are larger, who at one time were small or medium, but have grown over time, but they’re responsible for 80% of what we produce in this country.”

Myth: Farm policy gives preferential treatment to “the big five or six grains.”

Fischer: “Historically there’s no question, the country is focused on the production of staple commodities because they’re really the building blocks of our food supply. If you look at the five or six, they’re the cornerstone and the backbone of our food system. But for the last 25 years we haven’t directed support to those commodities. The reality is you can grow whatever you want. It’s not tied to what you produce, and it’s been that way for 25 years despite the fact that we’re still having this conversation.

“Another component of this, too, is I think it’s all about striking the right balance and it’s about sticking to the facts. We have a very diverse food supply. Certainly there’s a role for the staple commodities, but part of this as well, and I’ve been on the inside of those debates having worked on Capitol Hill for a long time, is that there’s a concern about getting the balance right. If we have everybody in the country producing fruits and vegetables or quinoa, we’re going to flood those markets and destroy those prices.”

Myth: The government subsidizes the U.S. sugar industry.

Fischer: “No, that’s another myth. We hear these things over and over again. We let the markets make those decisions. There are no subsidies going to sugar producers. We do have safeguards in place because much of the rest of the world subsidizes their producers. So, we have some safeguards here so they can’t dump their sugar here. I think if you talk to most folks they would see that as quite rational.”

Tom Doran

Field Editor