Return to Common Sense

September 5, 2019

Section: Domestic - Agriculture

Farm subsidies have morphed into a corporate entitlement program for big agribusiness, and are no longer needed in a global free market.

I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman’s cares.” George Washington.


Philosophy (Background, Issues, Objectives):

Federal government protects land for public use (2009 statistics).

o   650 million acres (1,015,625 square miles), representing 26.7% of the nation’s total land, is government owned.

§  Federal lands include national parks, military bases, and District of Columbia.

§  A national park is a reserve of land protected from most human development and pollution.

§  Most national parks have a dual role as offering a refuge for wildlife and as serving as popular tourist areas.

§  54% of all government land is in the western states, with less than .24% of the land in the entire Northeast.

§  The federal government owns 84.5% of Nevada, 69.1% of Alaska, 57.4% of Utah, 53.1% of Utah, 50.2% of Idaho, 48.1% of Arizona, 45.3% of California, 42.3% of Wyoming, 41.8% of New Mexico, 36.6% of Colorado, and 303% of Washington.

§  East of that north/south line only Michigan, North Carolina, and New Hampshire exceed 10%. 

§  Major oil producing states are free to develop their resources: Texas, 1.9%; North Dakota, 2.7%; Oklahoma, 3.6%; Louisiana, 5.1%.

o   Individual state-owned land includes an additional 196 million acres (8.6% of U.S.).

o   The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is administered by the Department of the Interior and manages 258.2 million acres (11.2% of U.S.).

§  Almost 70% of the nation's oil and gas reserves are found on BLM administered lands.

§  158 million acres are used for livestock grazing.

§  Almost 70% of the nation's oil and gas reserves are found on BLM administered lands, also under the purview of the Department of the Interior.

o   Since 1916 the National Park Service (NPS) is administered by the Department of the Interior and oversees 79 million acres and 397 national parks (3.6% of U.S.).

§  84,000,000 acres of land.

§  4,502,644 acres of oceans, lakes, reservoirs.

§  85,049 miles of perennial rivers and streams

§  68,561 archeological sites

§  43,162 miles of shoreline

§  27,000 historic structures 

§  2,461 national historic landmarks

§  582 national natural landmarks.

§  40 national heritage areas 

o   The Bureau of Reclamation is administered by the Department of the Interior and has built and operated dams, canals, and hydroelectric plants in 17 western states.

§  The Bureau of Reclamation is the largest wholesaler of water in the nation, and it is the second largest producer of hydroelectric power, with 58 plants.

§  It owns 250 dams and 350 water reservoirs, which are used for power, irrigation, flood control, and recreation.

o   The United States Forest Service is administered by the Department of Agriculture and oversees 193 million acres of national forests (8.5% of U.S.).

§  Through its Bureau of Reclamation, it maintains over 600 dams with reservoirs that provide water and hydropower to 30 million Westerners, and irrigates 60% of the vegetables grown in America.

o   The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is administered by the Department of the Interior and manages 93 million acres, primarily in Hawaii and Alaska (4.2% of U.S.).

o   The Department of Defense (DoD) also owns 20 million acres.

o   The Property Clause (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2) gave Congress the power to dispose of property, but does not mention a power to acquire property.

o   Under the Necessary and Proper Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18), the federal government was given the power to acquire land but only for the purpose of carrying out its enumerated powers (such as parcels for military uses, post offices, etc.)

o   The Constitution does not mention any role in un-enumerated purposes such as grazing, mineral development, agriculture, forests, or even national parks.

o   The Constitution details that land not being used for activities specifically authorized by the Constitution should be transferred back to the states.

o   27% of the total land area in the United States is already locked up in some kind of protected area and 67% of the total marine area.

o   1906 Antiquities Act closed land for development by designating “monuments.”

o   Designation of land as national “monuments” is being used for other than antiquities purposes.

o   President Carter locked up 50 million acres in Alaska, despite state opposition.

o   President Clinton locked up 5.9 million acres in 19 new national monuments and expanding three others.

o   In 2009 President Obama designated 2 million federal acres as “wilderness,” thus limiting public access and uses thereon.

o   U.N. Agenda 21 encouraged Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites as a means to protect public lands from resource development.

o   Lands are nominated for designation as Biospheres or World Heritage Sites without any Congressional debate or approval.

o   The United States has designated 47 U.N. Biosphere Reserves and 20 World Heritage sites so far. 

o   Land use restrictions have driven thousands of blacks out of San Francisco.

o   Unproven environmental accusations can cause plant relocation costing many jobs.

o   Rejection of drugs and insecticides based on unproven risks can cause many deaths.

There are six key commodity programs:

Agriculture subsidies seek to level global marketplace with federal payments.

o   USDA is required by law to subsidize two dozen commodities.

§  Cotton, wheat, sugar, rice and dairy products.

§  Milk subsidies artificially props up milk prices, and create cartels to manage the marketplace.

§  Sugar program restricts supply, guarantees minimum price, and restricts imports.

o   USDA began selling off its grain stocks for good in the late 1980s.

o   Protectionism, such as tariffs and quotas, props up the price of agriculture at home.

o   From 1999 to 2005, $1.1 billion was paid in the names of 172,801 deceased individuals.

o   Cash payments for agriculture purposes cost $172 billion over last decade

o   Cash payments for agriculture purposes cost $25 billion in 2005.

o   Farmers paid $1.3 trillion since 2000 not to plant selected crops.

o   There are currently 15 USDA authorized crop insurance providers around the country for “cooperative financial assistance agreements.”

o   The largest farm subsidy program is crop insurance run by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, averaging more than $8 billion a year.

Agriculture subsidies seem no longer to be warranted by global competition.

Dozens of countries have curbed export of agriculture.

Other countries are beginning to end farm subsidies.

The Food Stamp Program was originally included in the Department of Agriculture under the high New Deal logic that the federal government could prop up one sector (agriculture) by subsidizing others to buy its products.

o   The 1996 reforms incentivized work in a very moderate way by stating that able-bodied recipients without dependents would receive benefits only three out of every 36 months unless they worked at least part time. 



Federal government protects land for public use.

Free market capitalism is most efficient industry model.



Short Term, Transfer Food Stamp Program to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Phase out all farm and commodity subsidies to return agriculture to the free market.

Eliminate USDA Food for Peace Title II grants, shifting to USAID program ($1.5B).

Decentralize the infrastructure and decision-making for water management.

Reform the Endangered Species Act to involve property owners in the conservation process.

Open federal land to tightly controlled natural resource harvesting.

Withdraw the U.S. from the U.N. Agenda 21, freeing up U.S. land for resource development.

Prosecute environmental radicals as zealots and domestic terrorists.

Long Term, Relinquish all rights, title, and jurisdiction of all public lands currently controlled by the federal government.

Abolish the Department of Interior ($13.0B annually) as not legitimate federal functions.

Abolish the Department of Agriculture ($142.0 billion annually) as not legitimate federal functions.

Grant Indian “self-determination” and abolish the Bureau of Indian Affairs ($2.9B annually).



Reform’s Stunted Crop” by David Orden dated Spring 2002 published by Cato Institute on http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv25n1/v25n1-3.pdf#search=%22%E2%80%9CReform%E2%80%99s%20Stunted%20Crop%E2%80%9D%20by%20David%20Orden%22 .

Save the Farms – End the Subsidies” by Chris Edwards and Tad DeHaven dated March 3, 2002 published by The Cato Institute at http://www.cato.org/dailys/03-06-02.html .

U.S. Protectionism Imperils Free Trade Talks with Latins” by Brink Lindsey dated March 22, 2002 published by Cato Institute on http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6575 .

Another Year at the Federal Trough: Farm Subsidies for the Rich, Famous, and Elected Jumped Again in 2002” by Brian M. Riedl dated May 24, 2004 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Budget/bg1763.cfm .

The Senate Attempts to Prematurely Extend the Bloated Farm Bill through 2011” by Brian M. Riedl dated October 27, 2005 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Budget/wm899a.cfm .

 Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don’t Farm” by Dan Morgan, Gilbert M. Gaul, and Sarah Cohen dated July 2, 2006 published by Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/01/AR2006070100962.html .

Welfare Kings” by Jonah Goldberg dated August 4, 2006 published by National Review Online at http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NWI3ZTMyZDYyMTRmOWZmYTM4ZGIwNGQ2YTYzNzU0NmE=.

These Lands Are Your Lands” by G. Tracy Mehan III dated October 26, 2006 published by The American Spectator at http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=10526 .

Bush Administration Proposes Massive Land Grab” by William Perry Pendley dated November 14, 2006 published by Town Hall at http://www.townhall.com/Columnists/Column.aspx?ContentGuid=0bfe72a5-444e-4374-b221-7aee297c946c .

Five Reasons for the Senate to Reject Boosting Farm Subsidies” by Brian M. Riedl dated December 4, 2006 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Budget/wm1274.cfm .

Fighting for Subsidies” by Rich Lowry dated April 3, 2007 published by National Review Online at http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTQxMzZkZGM0ZmMzN2EyNmQzM2VkOTE0ODdkYWYwYmE= .

Freeing the Farm” by Sallie James and Daniel Griswold dated April 16, 2007 published by The Cato Institute at http://www.freetrade.org/files/pubs/pas/tpa-034.pdf .

The Perfect Firestorm: Bringing Forest Service Wildfire Costs under Control” by Randall O’Toole dated April 30, 2007 published by Cato Institute at http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=8210 .

Plowing Farm Subsidies Under” by Bruce Gardner dated May 17, 2007 published by National Review Online at http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTA5ZjA0Nzc5MWY4YTJhNWY2YTIwNDZlYjA4MjIxMzI= .

Agricultural Subsidies” by Chris Edwards dated June 13, 2007 published by The Cato Institute at http://www.cato.org/downsizing/agriculture/agriculture_subsidies.html .

How Farm Subsidies Harm Taxpayers, Consumers, and Farmers, Too” by Brian M. Riedl dated June 19, 2007 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Agriculture/bg2043.cfm .

Milk Madness” by Chris Edwards dated July 2007 published by The Cato Institute at http://www.cato.org/pubs/tbb/tbb_0707_47.pdf .

Nothing Sweet about It” by Frances B. Smith dated July 16, 2007 published by National Review Online at http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZGUwMWRlMDYyMDhlZTJmZjc1MmZiN2NiZWMxNzQ3ZWQ= .

The dirt on farm subsidies” by Brian M. Riedl dated July 24, 2007 published by Los Angeles Times at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-riedl24jul24,0,3818350.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail .

Dead Men Farming” by John Stossel dated August 15, 2007 published by Real Clear Politics at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/08/dead_men_farming.html .

America’s Absurd Farm Subsidies” by Robert Samuelson dated September 12, 2007 published by Real Clear Politics at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/09/americas_absurd_farm_subsidies.html .

The Best Farm Policy is the Free Market” by Tracy C. Miller dated October 11, 2007 published by Front Page Magazine at http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=EF25677F-8843-4284-AC1C-F53128BFF8DF .

Farm Policy Needs to be Plowed Under” by Matt Danko dated February 8, 2008 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/02/farm_policy_needs_to_be_plowed.html .

$16 Billion in Federal Taxpayer Farm Subsidies – Growing Problems” by Paul weyrich dated Februarty 20, 2008 published by American Daily at http://www.americandaily.com/article/21678 .

Against the Grain” by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar dated June 13, 2008 published by The American Spectator at http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=13365 .

The New Landlord” by Bill Croke dated November 14, 2008 published by The American Spectator at http://www.spectator.org/archives/2008/11/14/the-new-landlord .

Bound to Burn” by Peter W. Huber dated April 20, 2009 published by Front Page Magazine at http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=0AE9D665-37A3-4EDE-A8CB-B10CE9DDF827 .

White house land grab” by Jim DeMint dated March 2, 2010 published by The Washington Times at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/02/white-house-land-grab/ .

Department of Agriculture Proposed Spending Cuts” by Chris Edwards dated May 2010 published by Downsizing Government at http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/proposed-cuts .

Fourteen Ways to Reduce Government Spending” by Grover Norquist dated August 18, 2010 published by Americans for Tax Reform at http://www.atr.org/files/files/081810pr_14_Specific_Spending_Reduction_Ideas%281%29.pdf .

Hellacious Acres” by Deroy Murdock dated October 7, 2010 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/248868/hellacious-acres-deroy-murdock .

“Sen. Paul Proposes Serious Cuts” by Chris Edwards dated January 31, 2011 published by Cato Institute at http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/sen-rand-paul-proposes-serious-cuts .

The Goal: Control of land use” by Henry Lamb dated February 12, 2011 published by Canada Free Press at http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/articles-business/33265 .

Free the Federal Lands for States to Develop” by Samuel J. Mikolaski dated May 8, 2011 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/05/free_the_federal_lands_for_sta.html .

American Boondoggle: Fixing the 2012 Farm Bill” by Barry K. Goodwin, Vincent H. Smith and Daniel A. Sumner dated June 28, 2011 published by American Enterprise Institute at http://www.aei.org/aei-website/managed-content/site-pages/agweek-2011/agweek-2011.html .

National Park Service has new land-grabbing tool” by Ron Arnold dated December 29, 2011 published by The Washington Examiner at http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/2011/12/national-park-service-has-new-land-grabbing-tool/2044626 .

Reforming Federal Land Management” by Randal O’Toole and Chris Edwards dated February 1, 2012 published by CATO Institute at http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/interior/reforming-federal-land-management .

Cutting the Bureau of Reclamation and Reforming Water Markets” by Chris Edwards and Peter J. Hill dated February 1, 2012 published by CATO Institute at http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/interior/cutting-bureau-reclamation .

Indian Lands, Indian Subsidies, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs” by Chris Edwards dated February 2012 published by CATO Institute at http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/interior/indian-lands-indian-subsidies .

The U.S. Sugar Program: Bad for Consumers, Bad for Agriculture, and Bad for America” by Bryan Riley dated April 18, 2012 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/04/us-sugar-program-bad-for-consumers-agriculture-and-america .

The Case Against Taxpayer-Funded Crop Insurance” by Baylen Linnekin dated May 12, 2012 published by Reason Magazine at http://reason.com/archives/2012/05/12/crop-insurance-its-crop-subsidies-with-p .

Food-Stamp Folly” by Nash Keune dated June 19, 2012 published by National Review Online at http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/303200/food-stamp-folly-nash-keune .

Reforming the Food Stamp Program” by Robert Rector and Katherine Bradley dated July 25, 2012 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/07/reforming-the-food-stamp-program .

The Grim Reapers of Crop Insurance” by Vincent H. Smith dated August 24, 2012 published by The American Magazine at http://www.american.com/archive/2012/august/the-grim-reapers-of-crop-insurance .

A Farm Bill Primer: 10 Things You Should Know About the Farm Bill” by Daren Bakst and Diane Katz dated May 14, 2013 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/05/a-farm-bill-primer-10-things-you-should-know-about-the-farm-bill .

The Sierra Club Exposed” by Marita Noon dated June 9, 2013 published by Town Hall at http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/maritanoon/2013/06/09/the-sierra-club-exposed-n1616057 .

Congress Could Cut Five USDA Programs and Save $2.8 Billion a Year” by Daren Bakst and Romina Boccia dated July 2, 2013 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/07/congress-could-cut-five-usda-programs-and-save-28-billion-a-year .

The Shutdown in the West” by Gary Owen dated October 26, 2013 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/10/the_shutdown_in_the_west.html .

10 Programs to Eliminate in the January 2014 Spending Bill and Save $10.2 Billion” by Romina Boccia dated January 3, 2014 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/01/10-programs-to-eliminate-in-the-january-2014-spending-billand-save-102-billion .

Addressing Waste, Abuse, and Extremism in USDA Programs” by Daren Bakst dated May 30, 2014 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/05/addressing-waste-abuse-and-extremism-in-usda-programs?ac=1 .

Congress’ Sneaky Tactic to Grab More Land for the Government” by Robert Gordon and Nicholas Loris dated December 2, 2014 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://dailysignal.com/2014/12/02/congresss-sneaky-tactic-grab-u-s-land-government/ .

Food Subsidies” by Chris Edwards dated May 16, 2016 published by CATO institute at https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/food-subsidies .

Promoting Free Trade in Agriculture” by Scott Lincicome dated July 11, 2016 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2016/07/promoting-free-trade-in-agriculture .

Reforming the Forest Service” by Stephen Slivinski and Chris Edwards dated July 12, 2016 published by CATO institute at https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/forest-service .

What Happened When New Zealand Got Rid of Government Subsidies for Farmers?” by Josh Siegel dated September 22, 2016 published by The Heritage Foundation at http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/22/what-happened-when-new-zealand-got-rid-of-government-subsidies-for-farmers/?ac=1 .

Subsidy Programs for Rural America” by Stephen Slivinski and Chris Edwards dated October 1, 2016 published by CATO institute at https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/rural-subsidies .

Agricultural Subsidies” by Chris Edwards dated October 7, 2016 published by CATO institute at https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/subsidies .

The Farm Bill Comes Due” by H. Sterling Burnett dated May 8, 2017 published by The American Spectator at https://spectator.org/the-farm-bill-comes-due/ .

Trump Needs to transfer All Federal Land Back to the States” by Steve Baldwin dated January 11, 2018 published by The American Spectator at https://spectator.org/trump-needs-to-transfer-all-federal-land-back-to-the-states/ .

Agricultural Subsidies” by Chris Edwards dated April 16, 2018 published on CATO Institute at https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/agriculture/subsidies .

The federal government hoards so much land it doesn’t even know how much it has” by Richard McCarty dated September 5, 2019 published by Daily Torch at http://dailytorch.com/2019/09/the-federal-government-hoards-so-much-land-it-doesnt-even-know-how-much-it-has/ .