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Not-So Sweet Deal:

The existing sugar subsidy program costs American consumers an estimated $1.5 billion per year. Congress is revising the sugar subsidy program this year. That would be good news, except it's making it even worse.

Anderson (mail):
But what are the healthcare costs of cheaper sugar?

Should the feds guesstimate the costs of sugar-fed obesity and then tax sugar for those costs?
10.30.2007 7:56pm
Jim Harper (mail) (www):
WashingtonWatch.com calculates that H.R. 2419, The Farm Bill Extension Act of 2007 would cost the average U.S. family about $125.

(Net present value of the CBO estimate for the bill divided by the number of people in the United States.)
10.30.2007 8:03pm
Mike& (mail):
But what are the healthcare costs of cheaper sugar?



Because of sugar subsidies, we get high fructose corn syrup in our foods instead of sugar. If it weren't for powerful agricultural interests, all Americans (instead of an educated few) would know that high fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar and is as bad for you as trans fats. But the farmers keep the truth from the masses.

If you don't already distrust the government, learn something about good nutrition. You'll then see how the government's agricultural subsidies and "food pyramid" is literally killing people with disinformation.

I hate farmers. Really. Everyone loves them, but because of them, we have these farm subsidies in place - as well as the false food pyramid. Farmers' lobbying have killed more Americans than Al-Qaeda's terrorist acts.

But farmers are slow and silent killers. And thus we don't fear them. No, I am not being sarcastic.

Bad nutrition kills. Farmers have engaged in a campaign to spread misinformation, namely that bad nutrition (lots of grains) is good nutrition. When, in fact, the opposite is the case. QED, farmers are trying to kill you.

Of course, the federal government is responsible, too. Which is yet another reason to distrust the government. If they are trying to poison you by making it too expensive to have sugar (thus you use HFCS), and lying to you about how you should eat, how else is the government trying to kill you?
10.30.2007 8:16pm
MarkField (mail):

But what are the healthcare costs of cheaper sugar?

Should the feds guesstimate the costs of sugar-fed obesity and then tax sugar for those costs?


In my view, yes, sugar would qualify for Pigovian taxes. What we should do is end subsidies to US producers, lift import restrictions (that would make sugar cheaper), and then tax sugar to account for its externalities.

Just to take account of Mike&'s point, we should impose similar taxes on corn syrup and other sugars as well.
10.30.2007 8:26pm
iNonymous:
Taxpayers of America, the landed gentry of Terrebonne parish thanks you.
10.30.2007 9:08pm
TJIT (mail):
So far five comments on the damage a government program does.

Two of these comments are proposing another government program to fix the problems caused by the first government program.

I find that kind of entertaining in a way.

However, the best solution would be to just kill the original government program instead of creating another one that will have its own unintended consequences.
10.30.2007 9:19pm
HappyConservative:
TJIT,

Just because an action has unintended consequences does not mean you should not do it.

Practically all actions, by government or business or individuals, has unintended consequences. What is important is the nature and magnitude of those consequences, compared to the benefit of the action, and also compared to alternative actions.
10.30.2007 9:50pm
heriberto gomez:
It is well known that the premier sugar cane farmers in USA are Hispanic Cubanos, so all this talking ism basically racist stuffs.
10.30.2007 10:00pm
Mike& (mail):
It is well known that the premier sugar cane farmers in USA are Hispanic Cubanos, so all this talking ism basically racist stuffs.

Cuban-Americans are also the reason I can't smoke Cuban cigars. There is nothing inherently racist about recognizing that racial groups can unite into powerful lobbying groups. Especially when members of a racial group do in fact form a group devoted to further their race. If anything, such special-interest groups are racist.

Of course, we live in a society where everyone who thinks the United States should let Israel rise or fall on its own is an anti-Semite. So your accusation is unsurprising.
10.30.2007 10:20pm
Buckland (mail):
As some blogger (Instapundit?) pointed out recently, there are now more World of Warcraft players than farmers in the US. I think a "Free Gold for Residents of Ironforge" law or government training classes in getting attuned for onyxia would be helpful to a greater number of people.
10.30.2007 10:22pm
Smokey:
heriberto:

"Racist"?? Here's your racism:

American consumers pay a heavy price to subsidize the sugar barons, of whom some of the richest are foreign citizens. The brothers Alfonso Jr. (Alfie) and Jose ( Pepe) Fanjul, immigrants from Cuba but citizens of Spain, possess a fortune estimated at over $500 million. This fortune includes several Florida sugar mills, 170,000 acres of cane in south Florida, and another 240,000 acres of land in the Dominican Republic. But as "domestic" growers, they are entitled to the sugar import protection enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which adds about 8 cents a pound to what the American consumer pays for sugar and about $65 million to the annual income of the Fanjuls. If this were not enough government help, the Fanjuls' other business interests have benefited from federal, state, and local affirmative action programs that provide minority set-asides for qualified firms. For example, the Fanjuls' investment firm, FAIC Securities, enjoys the right to market the debt of Florida municipalities and such government-sponsored enterprises as the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home LoanBanks. [source]

I wish the gov't would discriminate against me by letting me market all FNME mortgages originated in Florida, and by paying me eight cents a pound on every pound of sugar sold. That's my kinda racism!
10.30.2007 10:32pm
deke hauser:
Stuart Elliott, the NYT's advertising maven, reports that Coca-Cola, in sugar cane-sweetened form, is available in New York during the Jewish High Holidays, as high fructose corn syrup is not, apparently, kosher.

As the soul singers say, that don't cut no ice, but I wonder if the billions of Muslims' Halal dietary standards ape those of the Jews in this regard?

If so, soft drink bottlers, not wishing to offend those of Pres. Bush's "religion of peace" would do well to rush cane sugar beverages to market.
10.30.2007 11:04pm
ks:
Deke, Coca-Cola with sugar is available on Passover, not the High Holidays. The reason is that most American Ashkenazi Jews will not eat corn or corn derivatives during Passover. Coke with sugar is available during Passover (April) in the cities with large Jewish populations. You can identify these bottles because they have yellow caps.
10.31.2007 12:07am
JB:
Sweet! Good to know. I was in Europe this summer and drank coke every day, although I never touch the stuff here. Sugar really does make a phenomenal difference.
10.31.2007 1:35am
jukt (mail):
It seems that giving $$$ to politicians is an amazingly positive NPV proposition: $3 million in donations gets you $1.5 billion.
That's what always struck me about bribery scandals - how little the amount of the bribe is compared to the benefit gained from the resulting legislation or gov't decision.
10.31.2007 3:42am
Ben P (mail):

"Free Gold for Residents of Ironforge"


Then you'd be sued by some Irate players for giving "noobs" money.
Interesting comment as I'm actually writing a paper right now about the potential of legal regulation regarding virtual worlds.


But in all seriousness, I'd agree with most of the comments here. US Farm subsidies are quite rediculous in some cases, especially when one considers the vast gap between the stated motivation (saving mom and pop farmers) and the actual effect (giving corporate farms lots of extra income). If we want to cut spending some, that's a prime candidate.
10.31.2007 10:02am
Adeez (mail):
"how else is the government trying to kill you?"

I know: by forcing us to take toxic drugs to replace non-lethal marijuana.

Good post Mike&.
10.31.2007 10:38am
DWAnderson:
The sugar tarriffs in support of the same politically connection people also have perfidious effects on the relations of the United States with its Carribbean neighbors.
10.31.2007 12:05pm
GV_:
Both the House bill, which was passed in July, and the Senate version, which could be voted on as early as this week, guarantee that the government will buy from American farmers an amount of sugar equivalent to 85 percent of domestic consumption — regardless of how much comes in from abroad.

What does that mean?

I'm a bit confused. It sounds like the market will soon be flooded with cheaper sugar from Mexico. Presumably, consumers will buy that sugar as opposed to U.S. sugar. The only consumer who will purchase the U.S. sugar will be the United States. I suspect that means that U.S. sugar will not sell as much sugar this year as last unless the U.S. Government decides to buy a lot more sugar than normal.
10.31.2007 12:07pm
Ben P (mail):
I think the way it works in practice is that the price guarantee determines subsides on a per unit basis and the 85% determines the total subsidies.

US farmer A plants acreage calculated to yield 10 tons of raw sugar. At the US minimum guaranteed price this is the equivalent of $5 million dollars.


But Mexican sugar increases supply, dropping the price. So, this farmer only makes $2.5 million dollars from this same amount of sugar.

Subsequently uncle sam guarantees the farmer 85% of the difference between $2.5 million and $5 million.
10.31.2007 12:19pm
abb3w:
Ben P: US Farm subsidies are quite rediculous in some cases, especially when one considers the vast gap between the stated motivation (saving mom and pop farmers) and the actual effect (giving corporate farms lots of extra income). If we want to cut spending some, that's a prime candidate.

Only if for wealthy cheap-labor conservatives. Market forces alone serve to insure that on average, there tends to be enough food produced. Unfortunately, climate is unpredictable; sometimes there are unexpected bad years, in which crop yields are substantially below expected amounts. Of course, the market will redistribute the food "efficiently"... which means the rich get enough, but the poor may starve. (The increased prices in a shortage also effectively reduce the margin above subsistence for incomes at the same wages. When that margin is reduced, it is more difficult for members of a society to advance themselves. This is one reason it's a lot easier to turn one million dollars into two million, rather than to turn one dollar into two.)

Farm and crop subsidies increase production levels above the market's "equilibrium" value. This is "inefficient", in that it routinely creates surpluses on the market. However, it is moral, in that food deficits due to climate variation are much less likely to result in masses of starving poor... and a relatively efficient means to that end.

The idiocies of toxic corn syrup are an excellent reason to question whether the subsidies are wisely distributed, and it certainly may make sense to reduce subsidies for some products (Less corn, more green vegetables!), preferably over a few years to facilitate a smooth economic transition. There might also be a better mechanism to deal with the surplus production in boom years (so excess corn doesn't become excess corn syrup dumped on the market). However, outright elimination (or even major reduction) of farming subsidies seems a Really Bad Idea.
10.31.2007 1:01pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Anderson writes:


But what are the healthcare costs of cheaper sugar?

Should the feds guesstimate the costs of sugar-fed obesity and then tax sugar for those costs?



It isn't sugar subsidies behing the unhealthiness of cheap American food. It is the corn subsidies (See "Omnivore's Dilemma" by Pollan).

hate farmers. Really. Everyone loves them, but because of them, we have these farm subsidies in place - as well as the false food pyramid. Farmers' lobbying have killed more Americans than Al-Qaeda's terrorist acts.

Mike &writes:


But farmers are slow and silent killers. And thus we don't fear them. No, I am not being sarcastic.

Bad nutrition kills. Farmers have engaged in a campaign to spread misinformation, namely that bad nutrition (lots of grains) is good nutrition. When, in fact, the opposite is the case. QED, farmers are trying to kill you.



Your anger is misplaced. You ought to hate Conagra and Archer Daniels Midland. The farm subsidies don't help the average American farmer (there aren't that many of us anymore); they assure overproduction so that their raw materials remain cheap. There is no doubt that most farmers (counterproductively) support prices controls and asinine programs like ethanol subsidies, but they are the dupes of agribusiness, not the prime movers.
10.31.2007 1:07pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
abb3w,

You give the best defense of subsidies that I have seen. You are right that promoting overproduction can be a good policy. Perhaps I ought to argue for a readjustment rather than an elimination of the subsidy regime.

Is there a way to use government subsidies to modify the market equilibrium upwards without also causing the destruction of the family farmer?

Perhaps subsidies could encourage diversification of crops on a small scale. Diversification would also give us a buffer against climatic chance - if the year is too wet for one crop, another crop would pick up the slack. I'm not sure how to craft incentives in a way that would encourage small farms to diversify instead of heightening the economies of scale for agricorporations. Theoretically, this should be possible; any ideas?
10.31.2007 1:19pm
Ben P (mail):

Only if for wealthy cheap-labor conservatives. Market forces alone serve to insure that on average, there tends to be enough food produced.



One fatal flaw here.

When I wrote that I was not considering only food based subsidies. The US massively subsidizes cotton as well among other things.

I doubt cotton shortages are going to result in starving poor.

Cotton is one agricultural export of my state, another is Rice.

In either of these cases, there are a lot of farmers that get quite wealthy off of US subsidized minimum prices on those products.

If we're concerned about food shortages, there's clearly better ways to regulate this than making millionaires out of farmers.
10.31.2007 1:21pm
AK (mail):
In one of the many ironies of our insane farm policies, the sugar quotas hinder ethanol production. It's not just free-marketers who should oppose the sugar tarriffs and quotas, it's environmentalists, too.

(1) Sugar tarriffs/quotas keep supplies of sugar artificially low, and prices of sugar artificially high
(2) High sugar prices encourage cause buyers to demand corn syrup;
(3) Increased demand for corn syrup decreases availability of corn for other purposes, including human and livestock consumption and ethanol production;
(4) Decreased supply of corn for ethanol drives up the price of this alternative fuel, making non-renewable fuels comparatively cheaper.
10.31.2007 1:24pm
Ben P (mail):
Another concern is that, even if we admit that there is a social interest in preventing starving poor in the US that justifies farm subsidies. I don't think this justifies subsidies that essentially function as export subsidies.

It can't be ignored that the US exports large amounts of food. To the point where many "fair trade" advocates argue we're doing massive damage to the economies of other countries by undercutting their local producers of that food. (By subsidized mechanized production vs manpower intensive production)

If we're basing subsidies on concern for keeping food prices in the US low to protect the poor, we have little excuse for exporting more than 50% of this subsidized food in some cases. (and if it harms foreign markets, it can't be easily claimed we're also morally concerned about foreign poor) And that's a case for reduction of subsidies and not merely a reorganization of their structure.
10.31.2007 1:29pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I guess nobody here objects to eating slave-grown sugar.

Sugar is fungible. Refined white sugar is the purest substance you are ever likely to encounter, unless you are an analytical chemist. It doesn't matter whether it derives from cane or beet.

Sugar labor, however, is very much not fungible.

Hawaiiian sugar producers are the most efficient in the world -- by far -- which ordinarily would cause free marketeers to gush over their outstanding performance.

However, they also pay the highest agricultural labor costs for any crop anywhere, so their total cost of production is less than the price of slave-grown sugar. Therefore, all but two have gone out of business.

Hmmmm.

I love sugar, because it contradicts almost all the mantras of the Chicago Schoolboys.
10.31.2007 3:21pm
Frater Plotter:
By and large, there aren't "mom &pop farmers" today. Farm subsidies are not supporting the lifestyle of hardy pioneers of the American West; they're supporting the bottom lines of Archer Daniels Midland and other large syndicates.

One argument sometimes made for farm subsidies is one of autarky -- ensuring that the country does not become dependent on imported food, particularly so that in case of war a foreign enemy will not be able to starve us. But you can't feed a nation on sweet corn and oil soybeans. The crops that U.S. farm subsidies support are simply not nutritious. They're bad for our children and, in time of war, bad for our military readiness.

If you want to protect the nation with subsidies to food producers, here's the way to go:

* Permaculture. Don't plant corn; plant fruit and nut trees. These continue to produce year after year, becoming agricultural capital rather than a continuing expense.

* Victory gardens. Encourage suburbanites to convert their wasteful, polluting, nonproductive lawns into productive gardens.

* Sustainable farming. Methods of producing food that don't wreck the land or pollute the water are essential for long-term survivability.

Sounds hippie-ish? Consider: Would you rather be fighting a war with chubby soldiers raised on oil and sugar, with polluted and disease-ridden land ... or healthy men (and women) raised on proper nutrition?
10.31.2007 3:54pm
markm (mail):
Harry Eager: Just where are "slaves" growing sugar for international markets? IIRC, you can't be referring to Cuba because Cuban production has been low ever since Castro started messing with the farms.
10.31.2007 8:27pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Dominican Republic, for one.

Depending upon your definition of 'slave labor,' some of China's and India's production qualifies, and they are both big producers. Not big exporters, but sugar is fungible; so eating any imported sugar at least indirectly supports slave-grown sugar.

Funny thing, though. There's no 'fair trade' sugar.

If you are willing to accept miserable debt peonage as nearly as bad as slavery, then the list gets longer.

Then there is fijian sugar, problematic for other reasons.

Sugar represents about 10% of human calories.

As I said, the sugar itself is fungible. The antecedents of the sugar have to be assessed carefully.
11.1.2007 1:31am
Montie:

Hawaiiian sugar producers are the most efficient in the world -- by far -- which ordinarily would cause free marketeers to gush over their outstanding performance.


That depends on your definition of efficiency. If you are looking for the most efficient producers in terms of labor usage, you are probably right. However, most sophisticated free marketeers would object to that definition of efficiency.
11.1.2007 10:45am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Yeah, I know, but I think they are idiots.

There is the little matter of the European surplus, which drives down the spot price.

I'm old enough to remember the public response when sugar spiked in 1971. Americans howled worse about not having sugar than they did about shortages of gasoline.

There is a reasonable public policy argument to be made for autarky in sugar, and an even better argument for 'sophisticated free marketeers' to not be untruthful when they speak about world markets. (Very little sugar changes hands at spot, perhaps 3%; it's an imaginary market.)

One problem with a country where there are more World of Warcraft players than farmers is that whenever anybody opens his mouth,there is close to a 98% chance he has never been on a farm, knows nothing about farming and is not worth listening to.

With sugar, the chance rises to about 99.9%.

I have, by the way, been on a sugar farm. In fact, from where I'm sitting now, I could hit one with a baseball if I had a big league arm.
11.1.2007 1:51pm
abb3w:
Smallholder: Perhaps I ought to argue for a readjustment rather than an elimination of the subsidy regime.

Indeed; I'm not going to argue that priorities for current subsidies aren't deeply FUBAR.

Is there a way to use government subsidies to modify the market equilibrium upwards without also causing the destruction of the family farmer?

I confess that I have no objection to the general demise of the family farming industry per se. (Besides, I understand even many "family" farms incorporate for tax and liability reasons these days.) My prime concern about corporations is excessive market power and short-sightedness. However, I suspect you might increase the number by limiting farm subsidies to those which qualify as "small" farms. One way might be to define that as those where the owner (or the plurality shareholder and CEO if incorporated) are required to live on a land parcel within one mile of the largest producing farm plot, with a cap on total acreage. I'm not sure this is a great idea.

Perhaps subsidies could encourage diversification of crops on a small scale. Diversification would also give us a buffer against climatic chance - if the year is too wet for one crop, another crop would pick up the slack. I'm not sure how to craft incentives in a way that would encourage small farms to diversify instead of heightening the economies of scale for agricorporations. Theoretically, this should be possible; any ideas?

Limit the amount of acreage of any single crop variety that a farmer can get subsidized for, but place no limit on the number of food crop varieties an individual can get subsidies for. Of course, government must then get into the business of determining what constitutes "distinct" varieties, or risk a new form of gaming the system. A simple first pass would be "if the plant variety ever had its own a patent issued, it's definitely distinct". You would also have to deal with corporate shell games, where one company creates 100 subsidiaries to become 100 "individuals".

Ben P: When I wrote that I was not considering only food based subsidies. The US massively subsidizes cotton as well among other things. I doubt cotton shortages are going to result in starving poor.

Going naked and freezing, starving... both food and clothing are base level requirements for Maslow's hierarchy of needs. That said, there are more substitute goods for cotton, and I won't dispute the system could use a major overhaul by serious nutritionists. Alas, the impartiality of the current FDA is as rock-solid certain as room-temperature Jello. It's a good area to look for improved effectiveness and efficiency, but not necessarily any big savings. I can't find solid numbers, but it's on the order of only 5-25 G$ per year.

Ben P: Another concern is that, even if we admit that there is a social interest in preventing starving poor in the US that justifies farm subsidies. I don't think this justifies subsidies that essentially function as export subsidies. It can't be ignored that the US exports large amounts of food. To the point where many "fair trade" advocates argue we're doing massive damage to the economies of other countries by undercutting their local producers of that food.

Agreed, to that point.

If we're basing subsidies on concern for keeping food prices in the US low to protect the poor, we have little excuse for exporting more than 50% of this subsidized food in some cases. And that's a case for reduction of subsidies and not merely a reorganization of their structure.

Not necessarily. Much of the monoculturalizing of food varieties has been due to need for transportability. This is one reason why the typical grocery store tomato is pretty much cardboard flavored. The suggestion to try and use subsidies to increase diversity of food varieties might help offset that to some degree. That said, yeah, if we export 50% any one subsidized crop on an average year, that product is probably over-subsidized.

Although, I do worry about something like the late 20's "dust bowl" climate shift. Anyone have a data source on how that impacted crop production?

Frater Plotter: If you want to protect the nation with subsidies to food producers, here's the way to go:

* Permaculture. Don't plant corn; plant fruit and nut trees. These continue to produce year after year, becoming agricultural capital rather than a continuing expense.

* Victory gardens. Encourage suburbanites to convert their wasteful, polluting, nonproductive lawns into productive gardens.

* Sustainable farming. Methods of producing food that don't wreck the land or pollute the water are essential for long-term survivability.


All nice ideas. Permaculture, however, needs to also emphasize diversity, lest you loose large amounts of agricultural capital to blight. (American Chestnut, anyone?) Also, I'm not sure about the relative need for water/fertilizer/etc for trees vs. annual seed crops, nor annual yield per acre comparisons. "Sustainable" farming at this point is mostly a buzzword; it's too likely to encourage short-term green looking ideas, like the dubious benefits of corn-based ethanol fuel. I wouldn't trust a politician to be allowed within a half mile of that buzzword.

Victory gardens, however... my apartment has a small recessed balcony facing east-north-east, barely seven feet wide. However, I had a box of mint, two of nasturtiums, some oregano, a bit of dill I was testing, and a quartet of yellow pear tomato plants. I hardly needed to buy salad mix all summer long, and I think I managed to persuade the dill to start growing wild in the small field nearby. The tomato plants nearly ate my balcony, but that's all right. On the lines of permaculture, one oak sapling put in by the complex that died was "mysteriously" replaced by a unsolicited new tree... which might start producing cherries in a few years. Hypothetically.

Next year, I plan to give away my extra yellow pear tomato seedlings to anyone in the complex who wants one. Alas, the dolts in the management spray pesticides near their bushes, so my attempts to induce random outbursts of mint and flowers about was a miserable failure. Ah, well.
11.1.2007 4:10pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
One problem with a country where there are more World of Warcraft players than farmers is that whenever anybody opens his mouth,there is close to a 98% chance he has never been on a farm, knows nothing about farming and is not worth listening to.
These are economics questions, not farming questions. I don't need to have been on a farm to answer them any more than I need to have been to Hiroshima to discuss atomic bombs. If I want to know whether to use a tractor or a plow, I'll ask a farmer. If I want to know how to design farm policy, I'll ask an economist.
11.1.2007 4:32pm
TJIT (mail):
abb3w in block quotes
Market forces alone serve to insure that on average, there tends to be enough food produced. Unfortunately, climate is unpredictable; sometimes there are unexpected bad years, in which crop yields are substantially below expected amounts. Of course, the market will redistribute the food "efficiently"... which means the rich get enough, but the poor may starve.
The idea that farm subsidies are the only thing standing between poor people and starvation is mind numbingly ignorant.

Especially when one considers the fact that the government is currently paying farmers hundreds of millions of dollars to not raise anything.

Farm subsidies worsen US food security by causing

1. Rampant waste of water and soil resources.
2. Monoculture crop production of an extremely narrow range of plant species and genotypes. This markedly increases crop susceptibility to pests and plant disease particularly new ones.
Farm and crop subsidies increase production levels above the market's "equilibrium" value. This is "inefficient", in that it routinely creates surpluses on the market. However, it is moral, in that food deficits due to climate variation are much less likely to result in masses of starving poor... and a relatively efficient means to that end.
You could not be more wrong because of the reasons given above.

Surplus crops from the US are often dumped on third world markets damaging their farm economies. So farm subsidies actually increase the risk of human starvation.

Seems pretty immoral to me.
11.1.2007 10:08pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
David, the economists are wrong, too.

They'd be wrong if they knew anything about farming anyway, but their ignorance adds a certain fillip to the idiocy, at least for those few of us who do know something about farming.

If sugar farmers gave away their product to refiners for free, and all other costs were held equal, you'd have to eat half a pound a sugar a week to get the claimed $1.5 billion subsidy back.

More reasonably, since the retail price of white sugar is about twice the farm gate price of raws, and since the spread between the U.S. and world price is not 20 cents a pound but about 5 cents, you'd have to eat about 2 pounds of sugar a week. (White, the most expensive kind; the amount you'd have to eat to recover $1.5B becomes even larger if we are talking about industrial sugars.)

If you allow the growers some expenses, then the number goes up again. By about an order of magnitude.

People who are eating 20 pounds of sugar a week probably have worse problems than out-of-pocket grocery expenses, but it would cost them only about the price of two Starbucks' coffees.

So you'll have to excuse me if I think this is what in Hawaii we call a shibai to distract the ignorant from real issues.

I make fun of the economists because they cannot do fifth-grade math. They are just making it up.
11.2.2007 3:58am
abb3w:
TJIT: The idea that farm subsidies are the only thing standing between poor people and starvation is mind numbingly ignorant.

Only thing? Hell, no. But it is one thing that helps make being poor in America a lot easier than poverty elsewhere in the world... and probably one reason why the US has some of the fattest "poor" people on the planet.

As for your other points, I agreed in another post after the one you commented on that the manner of allocating the subsidies is deeply FUBAR. I'd certainly prefer subsidies be redistributed to encourage crop diversity as well as raw production levels, although I'm not sure how to best do that. And your remarks about paying farmers not to grow crops and about waste of water and soil resources confuse me; I understood the one was introduced to address the other, via the Conservation Title of the 1985 Food Security Act. If you have specific suggestions on how that law might be improved to be more effective at using the market (or other means) to address the goals you suggest than the method you've mentioned, please enlighten us.
11.2.2007 12:48pm
TJIT (mail):
abb3w in blockquotes

And your remarks about paying farmers not to grow crops and about waste of water and soil resources confuse me; I understood the one was introduced to address the other, via the Conservation Title of the 1985 Food Security Act.
It is only confusing if you have not seen how farm programs actually work.

Your idea that agribusiness subsidies serve to keep the poor fed is pretty clearly contradicted by the fact that that the government pays farmers not to produce food.

The conservation title act provided the sorry sight of

1. Farmers getting conservation title money
2. Use that cash to buy environmentally sensitive areas that were not being farmed
3. Destroy the natural habitat in the sensitive area
4. Plant a monoculture subsidized crop in what had been fragile habitat.

The farm program law can't be improved to achieve the goals you want. The existing rent seekers will drive the programs to meet their needs. The wishes of the food security or environmental community will never be met by the farm programs.

The only sure way to stop the damage farms programs do is to end them.

Full stop, end of story nothing else will work.
11.2.2007 3:49pm