From the Ground Up - “Should the U.S. Support Production Agriculture?"

As work continues on the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill opponents to any government support of agriculture are lining up their experts for the debate. Proponents of support believe that having affordable food and our country’s ability to feed itself is a national security issue as well as a food safety issue. Joe Outlaw is co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University.

“While we have reduced the amount of support that we provide to our agriculture sector, the other countries around the world are doing just the opposite.”

Outlaw spends a lot of time in Washington.

“There are always people in Washington that think they know better than the people who actually do this for a living. A number of think tanks in Washington have been spending enormous amounts of money hiring economists, hiring people to come out with the definitive statements of we don’t need to support production agriculture any more. This country can back away.”

Outlaw says consumers would be the first to notice if that happened.

“They’re going to have higher food costs right off the bat. The folks that want to do this say that well, we’ll just get our products from the rest of, from around the world and that will cheapen it back up. Well, I don’t know how their math works because we spend eleven percent of our incomes on food. Other industrialized countries, the best they can do is somewhere around twenty percent. The best, so how can we have cheap food like we have now?”

And Outlaw points out that in addition to higher prices, there could be increased risks of food borne illnesses.

“If we go into this situation we’re going to be a lot more like the other countries and paying considerably more for our food, and having to rely on them and their food safety regulations for the production of our food. You take what happens in every economist’s text book, get the government out, where supply and demand crosses is a magic place and all good things happen there. That text book does not have weather, and that is the biggest difference.”

And that, according to Outlaw, makes production agriculture unique.