It is fair to say that subsidized farming in the U.S. is not working out. U.S. farm subsidies have impacted all of us by directly causing or significantly contributing to free market issues, the country's struggle with obesity, the government's budget deficit and widespread fraud. While many people seem to support ending subsidies, I think there still are uses for subsidies. I support large cuts to subsidies, but, in the short term, they can be a powerful tool to correct some of the wrongs of the present and to help us transition away from subsidies.
Subsidies can be powerful motivators to encourage farmers to grow certain crops. Subsidies are currently directed primarily at farms which grow corn, wheat, soy, rice and cotton (and in some cases, directed at farms not to grow certain crops at all). The focus of our farms on these five crops has created issues with obesity, accusations of dumping by foreign governments and even fears that intellectual property rights of major U.S. technology firms would become void. We can use subsidies to boost production of fresh produce, an integral and currently expensive part of a healthy diet, as well as other under-produced products.
Transitioning away from a subsidy heavy environment will absolutely create a burden on farmers, particularly small operations. It is my fear that without some support, small family farms will not survive as they often do not have the expertise or capital to transition. I think money formerly slated for subsidies can be used to maintain some diversity when it comes to suppliers. This money can be used for education, training, low interest loans, grants and even, in some cases, direct payments. The idea is to boost innovation by having producers operating at different levels.