It’s time for government to get out of ag

posted Feb. 20, 2017 9:54 a.m. (CDT)
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When will my fellow American farmers figure out that the government is not the solution to our problems, but rather the root of our problems? Every single time the federal government tries to help farmers, it always backfires for us and creates even more problems.

I am going to use the dairy industry as an example. Milk prices are in the dumps again because we have a surplus of milk, and the result is that farmers are struggling to get the bills paid. It is obvious what we are doing is not working. It has been the same vicious cycle for decades. We don’t just need change, we need complete reform of the system.

If we really want change for the better, it is going to take sacrifice from every single one of us. It won’t be easy at first, but if we don’t change the system ourselves, it is bound to implode, which would be a whole lot worse than if we fix it ourselves.

To properly fix the agricultural system, we need to demand that the federal government get its nose out of farming completely. The U.S. Constitution clearly lays out the powers given to the federal government; regulating agriculture is not one of those powers, whether it helps farmers or not.

The federal government has no power under the Constitution to:

1. Regulate the production and processing of agriculture.

2. Set agricultural commodity prices.

3. Use taxpayer money to prop up agriculture.

These decisions need to be left up to the states.

The programs the federal government have created to help U.S. farms have actually created a farm environment that makes it nearly impossible for young people to enter the industry. One example of this is high land prices. Farm subsidies help keep land prices at artificial highs making it nearly impossible for a young person to buy a farm.

I believe that the free-market system is the path we need to take. Farmers would then produce on a supply-and-demand basis. Let me be clear, this will not be an easy transition. Some farms will go out of business while others will prosper. As with most businesses, only the best and most efficient farms will stay afloat.

All is not gloom and doom, though, as there will be new farmers entering the market too. The unfortunate truth is that the only reason many U.S. farms are still afloat today is because of government assistance, which creates artificial stability. Agriculture as an industry is floating around in a government-protected bubble and one day it’s going to pop. It’s up to us to stop it.

If we were to switch to a free-market system, prices would be determined on a supply-and-demand basis. We would never have more food than we need. This marketing method is much simpler than the complex bureaucratic system we have today. The reason the government doesn’t like the free-market concept is because it is rooted in common sense, which is quite scarce in Washington, D.C.

The most frequent argument I hear against free markets is that “it’s the federal government’s job to ensure that we have a safe, consistent food supply. That’s why they should support farming through subsidy payments, federal marketing orders, etc.”

This is false. There will always be a demand for food and there will always be farmers to produce it without the government’s “help.” I also hear that “food must stay affordable and it’s up to the federal government to make sure it stays that way.” I would argue that this is also false. Even if food prices went up, U.S. consumers would not be hurting as only around 10 to 12 percent of household income is spent on food. This is miniscule compared to other countries.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Email me at

John A. Bigham Jr. is owner of Freedom Farm in New Paris, Ohio. 

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