Did you know that probing the seamy underbelly of U.S. agricultural policy reveals ideological strife and controversy and intrigue and nastiness on a nearly hanging-chad scale? For instance, did you know that some policy insiders (read politicians and bureaucrats) think ag policy should promote the productivity and efficiency (read size) of farms and others think it should support small farms (exclusively)? Did you know that there are limits to the subsidy payments a farmer can receive? And did you know that those limits are an attempted compromise between the forces of efficiency and equity in agriculture, but that most liberal insiders dismiss the Payment Limits as mere sham-populism?

Did you know that U.S. agricultural policy even had a seamy underbelly?1

The division between the aggies and the liberals is apparent in the recent Senate debate on the 2012 Farm Bill. The Senate Ag Committee produced legislation that ostensibly shifts the focus from income support to risk management, but the effect it might have on farmers risk-management decisions is debatable. The greater Senate body, however, was more concerned about crafting payment limits for the newly-proposed programs. Such narrow-minded focus on the top of the payment distribution might have caused the Senators to overlook the consequences to the bottom.


1 This quote, with slight calumny*, comes from my favorite author David Foster Wallace.

* This isn’t the right word to use here, but I just got a new-to-me thesaurus