The Electric Commentary

Monday, August 01, 2005

Celebrities making sense?!?!

Can it be? Celebrities are famous for... well I guess they're famous for making movies and stuff, but many of them also spend a fair amount of time championing ridiculous causes. I never thought I'd see the day when a bunch of movie stars and musicians were getting behind an issue I agree with. Michael Stipe, Coldplay, Antonio Banderas, Thom Yorke, Minnie Driver and more have gotten together with Oxfam to help put an end to farm subsidies. Farm subsidies in America and Europe waste tax dollars to produce too much food that's put into world markets, depressing prices and undercutting third world farmers. This is a big issue but it is certainly not as glamorous as most celebrity crusades. It seems unlikely to me that this was anybody's publicist's idea.

38 Comments:

  • You do realize that the government kicks money to farmers to NOT grow grain, right? Unless you're a farmer (or a farmer's tax preparer or perhaps lawyer), you have NO IDEA what the extent of the government programs are, and what effect they have on the crops farmers grow.

    Great, celebs getting together for another cause they know nothing about. But at least you agree with this one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:39 PM  

  • "You do realize that the government kicks money to farmers to NOT grow grain, right?"

    Maybe in 1933. Maybe some subsidies, often referred to as environemntal subsidies, still go to paying farmers not to grow crops, but they make up like 20% of total farm subsidies these days.

    But either way, the government shouldn't pay farmers to do jack.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 5:36 PM  

  • Dan's right. Remember that next time you put corn in your gas tank.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 7:07 PM  

  • C'mon, Paul, that's a silly comment to make, even if it's only in jest.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:49 AM  

  • Danny,

    So you're willing to say that a possible 20% of subsidies are "environmental", yet in the next breath, you say that farmers shouldn't be paid for jack?

    Without some of these "environmental" subsidies, farmers have no incentive to "conserve" land or crops. The very land that provides sufficient food for our population and then some now would wash away with the next rain without incentives to conserve.

    Without subsidies of any kind, alot of farmers in this country would have to give up the farms. So in effect, you're saying we as a country should drive our own farmers into poverty so that farmers in other countries aren't. That's a wonderful liberal thought process.

    To both Danny and Paul, I'm not quite sure where you come from for Danny to make the point and Paul to say Danny's right, but I doubt either of you really knows the economic and environmental effects to THIS country of what you'd propose. Everyone talks about how great it is to live in this country. Yet you want this country to forego our own farmers in favor of another country's?

    I guess it's not surprising to me that a law student at UW-Madison would write about supporting the opinion -- and a lawyer living within shooting distance of Wrigley Field would support the opinion -- of a bunch of rich celebs with nothing better to do.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 AM  

  • I'll respond more at lunch time. Nice ad hominems, by the way.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 10:34 AM  

  • "So you're willing to say that a possible 20% of subsidies are "environmental", yet in the next breath, you say that farmers shouldn't be paid for jack?"

    Yes.

    "Without some of these "environmental" subsidies, farmers have no incentive to "conserve" land or crops. The very land that provides sufficient food for our population and then some now would wash away with the next rain without incentives to conserve."

    Perhaps the "very land that provides sufficient food..." washing away would provide some incentive for farmers to conserve.

    "Without subsidies of any kind, alot of farmers in this country would have to give up the farms. So in effect, you're saying we as a country should drive our own farmers into poverty so that farmers in other countries aren't. That's a wonderful liberal thought process."

    I guess that's one way to look at it. But I prefer to think of it as importing cheaper crops etc. AND saving tax money by not paying subsidies and thus making food cheaper for poor Americans. Providing an income to poor farmers elsewhere is an additional bonus. I kinda like free trade. Farmers in America can't compete with farmers elsewhere. Some of them should find another career. It happens to lots of types of businesses. Evolve or become extinct. And in the long run, that's a good thing.

    "To both Danny and Paul, I'm not quite sure where you come from for Danny to make the point and Paul to say Danny's right, but I doubt either of you really knows the economic and environmental effects to THIS country of what you'd propose."

    You havn't really provided any info that would make me think you know better than me. I doubt you do. People kling to this concept of the family farm because it's romantic and culturally significant to some people. Those are bad reasons to kling to a relic of the past. Here's what I know about farming and the environment: Fewer farms=more nature. You think those corn fields were there 500 years ago?

    "I guess it's not surprising to me that a law student at UW-Madison would write about supporting the opinion -- and a lawyer living within shooting distance of Wrigley Field would support the opinion -- of a bunch of rich celebs with nothing better to do."

    The point of this post was that I usually don't agree with celebrity crusades but do agree with this one. I'm nt sure what your point is here though. Do you have something against Wisconsin? Or the Cubs? Or lawyers?

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 10:45 AM  

  • "Here's what I know about farming and the environment: Fewer farms=more nature. You think those corn fields were there 500 years ago?"

    Were there 7 billion people in the world to feed 500 years ago? You think Paul's house was a house 500 years ago? You think UW-Madison was a university 500 years ago? I don't think that rebuttal has any relevance here. "Nature", as it was 500 years ago, is not a measuring stick you can use.

    If the number of farmers decreases in this country, the fields won't magically become woods again. They were transformed for a reason. They won't be magically changing back. If they wouldn't continue as fields, someone would buy the land and make real estate out of it.

    "The point of this post was that I usually don't agree with celebrity crusades but do agree with this one. I'm nt sure what your point is here though. Do you have something against Wisconsin? Or the Cubs? Or lawyers?"

    My point was not do discredit lawyers or celebs, or the points made by them, as Paul apparently feels. My point was that Paul has had the benefit of going to law school and finding a well-paying job, and you're in the process of going to law school at UW-Madison (isn't your education subsidized since you're a state resident?) to find a well-paying job. Celebs have high-paying jobs as a result of their talents. Farmers usually don't have the luxury of spending many years to get educated and find other jobs. They've been farming since they were very young, and that's what they know how to do, sometimes as the only means of sustaining their lives. My point was not to descredit anything you said, it was merely to say that I wasn't surprised that people in your positions don't show compassion for the American farmer.

    Did you know that the price of milk was about the same to farmers in the late 1970s as it was in the late 1990s? The price to consumers was definitely more. With technology, the price to get the milk to consumers should have decreased. Someone was making money during those years, and it definitely wasn't the farmers. The goverment didn't help out them out on that one. Come on, throw them a friggin bone.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:36 AM  

  • First of all, being a farmer doesn't make you a member of the race of farmers. Farm kids go to school. They may feel that they have to be farmers, but they don't.

    Why pay someone tax money to do something that others will do more efficiently with no tax money? Especially if it keeps subsistence farmers poor.

    Family farmers are very inneficient, choosing to forego the agribusiness route for old fashioned small farming. What is the benefit of this?

    We make enough food to feed about 28 billion people. Why?

    We lose about $900,000 per year just to sugar subsidies. That total does not include the actual subsidy amount, just higher prices on subsequent goods.

    We eat too much high fructose corn syrup due to the afformentioned subsidy (paid not to grow) on sugar (also, tariffs and rrestrictions), and because we subsidize corn production. HFCS is tougher to break down than canesugar. It becomes fat more easily.

    The same subsidy results in ethanol mandates, leading to higher gas prices and more air pollution, as ethanol requires 4 units of gasoline to produce one unit of ethanol.

    If the family farmer cannot compete on his own, he should do something else. This is not the 1930s (or 40s or 50s for that matter).

    Your problem is that you are a mercantilist. You see trade as a zero sum game with winners and losers. This is not so. Trade is mutually beneficial. Trade restrictions hurt economies. If an African or Brazilian farmer produces cheaper sugar beats and we start buying from them, an American farmer may go bankrupt. So what? What's so special about him? If we give him some cash to do nothing, the African might die? Why is the American farmer more important. Thing is, your restriction/subsidy (economically the same thing really) doesn't just screw the African. It also screws some other American. You see, that inefficient farm money doesn't disappear. It shows up in a more efficient business.

    That business will then provide jobs to those trained in the efficient business. People will be drawn to working there, maybe even the farmer.

    This is the law of comparative advantage in action. It is a cornerstone of modern economics, and is held as law by all ranges of economists from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman.

    Incidentally, all ranges of economists, from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman, would do away with farm subsidies in a heartbeat.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 1:04 PM  

  • "If the number of farmers decreases in this country, the fields won't magically become woods again. They were transformed for a reason. They won't be magically changing back. If they wouldn't continue as fields, someone would buy the land and make real estate out of it."

    Yeah, I bet all that farmland in the middle of Kansas and Wisconsin would fetch top dollar as condos. Of course it would turn into something close to it's original state. No magic required.

    You talk about me not having compasion when you are the one totally in favor of screwing poorer farmers in other countries and making food prices higher here. Law school is sorta hard by the way.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 1:06 PM  

  • "Yeah, I bet all that farmland in the middle of Kansas and Wisconsin would fetch top dollar as condos. Of course it would turn into something close to it's original state. No magic required."

    Look to the future. There's no way the Kansas fields become woods ever again. If they are not converted to real estate, the valuable farmland elsewhere (by this time, owned by large "corporate" farmers) will be, and the big "corporate" farmers would buy the land in Kansas and move their operations.

    "You talk about me not having compasion when you are the one totally in favor of screwing poorer farmers in other countries and making food prices higher here. Law school is sorta hard by the way."

    $1.00 for a loaf of bread, or $2.00 for a bag of sugared cereal breaking your bank? Is the price of food that out-of-hand in this country? I guess you could have fooled me. And "poorer" farmers? Driving our own farmers out of business somehow makes them richer jobless people than other countries' farmers being driven out of business?

    And I never said law school was easy. I just said you were fortunate enough to be able to do it. That means taking the time and money out of your early life to be able to try it. A LOT of people never get that opportunity.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:52 PM  

  • What? I am I not here?

    Oh, and that 900,000 is supposed to be 900,000,000. My bad.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 3:03 PM  

  • "If they are not converted to real estate, the valuable farmland elsewhere (by this time, owned by large "corporate" farmers) will be, and the big "corporate" farmers would buy the land in Kansas and move their operations."

    This would be bad how?

    "$1.00 for a loaf of bread, or $2.00 for a bag of sugared cereal breaking your bank? Is the price of food that out-of-hand in this country? I guess you could have fooled me. And "poorer" farmers? Driving our own farmers out of business somehow makes them richer jobless people than other countries' farmers being driven out of business?"

    It's not braking my bank, but I'd rather pay less. When farmers in many other countries "go out of business" it means the die. Or their kids do. If our farmers go out of business they fix cars or take night classes at community college or at least collect unemployment. And I don't want to drive anyone out of business. I want the most efficient producer to be able to produce without some 500 lb gorilla (The US, Europe, Japan) throwing in extra money to tilt the scale in favor of someone just because of where they were born. You tell me I'm lucky because I go to law school. Well why don't you compare US farmers to African farmers in the luck department? Who's more likely to survive in a different profession than farming?

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 3:11 PM  

  • Paul, I don't want you to feel left out, but this was your brother's original issue, so I responded to him first, as I had to run out for a bit and ran out of time.

    "First of all, being a farmer doesn't make you a member of the race of farmers. Farm kids go to school. They may feel that they have to be farmers, but they don't."

    No, you don't have to, but that doesn't mean your parents will help you do anything else with your life. Alot of farm kids have to do alot of work on the farm, and thus through growing up, don't have much of a chance and/or support to get good at other things. Farming is what they know, so farming is what they do. Even education suffers with many farm kids.

    "Why pay someone tax money to do something that others will do more efficiently with no tax money? Especially if it keeps subsistence farmers poor."

    The farmers in Africa are more efficient than the farmers here?

    "Family farmers are very inneficient, choosing to forego the agribusiness route for old fashioned small farming. What is the benefit of this?"

    They may be inefficient, but that doesn't mean they have a choice. Other, wealthier individuals or organizations may have bought out all the land around them, or they just can't afford to purchase new enough equipment or rent or buy enough land to be prosperous.

    "We make enough food to feed about 28 billion people. Why?"

    To take some of Danny's points about re-utilizing the land, what happens when we cut back farmland to only supply enough food to feed 12 billion people, and the world population hits 12 billion? Or 13 billion? Utilizing and CONSERVING the land now will allow our country and the world to grow more freely by having the means to produce enough food in the next decades and/or centuries. Do you honestly think large corporations who buy the land will care about farmland in the next decade?

    "We lose about $900,000 per year just to sugar subsidies. That total does not include the actual subsidy amount, just higher prices on subsequent goods."

    900 mil you say (later)? Who's "we"? Consumers? I'd have to say I don't feel like I'm getting hit on the chin when I go to buy a pound of sugar. I do feel that way about buying milk, though, because I know even though prices jump higher on milk, the farmers don't see it.

    "The same subsidy results in ethanol mandates, leading to higher gas prices and more air pollution, as ethanol requires 4 units of gasoline to produce one unit of ethanol."

    I've heard that it takes less than twice the BTUs to make ethanol than it produces when burned. Either way, ducking below 1:1 isn't good. But I believe those making off like bandits here aren't the actual farmers anyway. I think the majority of the benefits go to large corporations. Someone's pockets are being filled, but I don't think it's the farmers'.

    "If the family farmer cannot compete on his own, he should do something else. This is not the 1930s (or 40s or 50s for that matter)."

    Let's just let Wal-mart take over the whole country.

    "... Incidentally, all ranges of economists, from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman, would do away with farm subsidies in a heartbeat."

    They're economists. You know what they'd tell 90% of Americans? Don't use credit cards without having the money to pay them off every month. You know what 90% of Americans do? Yes, you do know. Just because an idea makes sense for 90% of Americans from a monetary standpoint, doesn't mean that's the way it should be.

    Whether by big "corporate" farms or family-owned farms, the fertile land in this country needs to be farmed, now and in the future. Whichever you choose will have ill effects. The family-owned farms will probably need more government help. The "corporate" farms will drive the family farmers out of their land and send the old farmers scurrying to urban areas to seek jobs in markets that already have 5+% unemployment rates. And at what benefit? Do you know how "corporate" farms are more efficient than family farms? Migrant workers. Whether they're illegal or not, you're giving immigrants or illegal aliens jobs and pushing Americans into the ranks of the unemployed. But I wouldn't expect economists to worry about this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:01 PM  

  • "No, you don't have to, but that doesn't mean your parents will help you do anything else with your life. Alot of farm kids have to do alot of work on the farm, and thus through growing up, don't have much of a chance and/or support to get good at other things. Farming is what they know, so farming is what they do. Even education suffers with many farm kids."

    Then they are better off than thousands of people with no skills or work ethic. If they want to farm, that's fine, but they should do so honestly and fairly, not on the dole.

    "The farmers in Africa are more efficient than the farmers here?"

    If an African farmer can produce an ear of corn for 3 cents and an American farmer can produce an ear of corn for 5 cents, who is more efficient?

    "They may be inefficient, but that doesn't mean they have a choice. Other, wealthier individuals or organizations may have bought out all the land around them, or they just can't afford to purchase new enough equipment or rent or buy enough land to be prosperous."

    Then tehy should probably go out of business. Either that or find some innovative way to maintain their business, like going organic or boutique.


    "To take some of Danny's points about re-utilizing the land, what happens when we cut back farmland to only supply enough food to feed 12 billion people, and the world population hits 12 billion? Or 13 billion? Utilizing and CONSERVING the land now will allow our country and the world to grow more freely by having the means to produce enough food in the next decades and/or centuries. Do you honestly think large corporations who buy the land will care about farmland in the next decade?"

    Land is land. We can always create new farmleand, and we can always improve yields. The concept of conserving farmland is silly. It's like saying we should conserve city land.

    What will happen in teht cities if we keep gaining more people?! The buildings will be overrun!

    "We lose about $900,000 per year just to sugar subsidies. That total does not include the actual subsidy amount, just higher prices on subsequent goods.

    900 mil you say (later)? Who's "we"? Consumers? I'd have to say I don't feel like I'm getting hit on the chin when I go to buy a pound of sugar. I do feel that way about buying milk, though, because I know even though prices jump higher on milk, the farmers don't see it."

    Bullshit. When milk prices go up, farmers benefit. If they don't, then they are very, very stupid, and should set up their own wholesale shops.

    That's 900 million dollars per year that existed before sugar subsidies that no longer exists. In other words the economy had a bllion dollars simply destroyed.

    Sugar tariffs manifest ehmselves in second and third generation sugar products. Baked goods, for instance. (Source: Douglas Irwin, Free Trade Under FIre, available at booksellers everywhere).

    I've heard that it takes less than twice the BTUs to make ethanol than it produces when burned. Either way, ducking below 1:1 isn't good. But I believe those making off like bandits here aren't the actual farmers anyway. I think the majority of the benefits go to large corporations. Someone's pockets are being filled, but I don't think it's the farmers'.

    Iowa as a whole constributes more to ethanol PACs than anywhere else. The money leads back to the corn.

    "Let's just let Wal-mart take over the whole country."

    You wish to destroy Wal-MArt through regulation? That is akin to attacking them with tanks. If you don't like them, shop elsewhere and out-compete them. They are one of the biggest boons to poor Americans ever.


    "They're economists. You know what they'd tell 90% of Americans? Don't use credit cards without having the money to pay them off every month. You know what 90% of Americans do? Yes, you do know. Just because an idea makes sense for 90% of Americans from a monetary standpoint, doesn't mean that's the way it should be."

    That also doesn't make it bad advice. It's good advice! What is your point here, that we should use government policy to allow people to make stupid decisions? I'm against the use of government power most of the time even for smart decisions, I certainly don't want to use it for stupid decisions.

    Let's break up this last paragraph:


    "Whether by big "corporate" farms or family-owned farms, the fertile land in this country needs to be farmed, now and in the future."

    Bullshit. We produce more food now than at any other time in history using less land. Yields improve all the time. This is unquestionably a good thing. As other nations gain technologically our farming needs will probably decrease further. Moreover, even if they don't we can always buy more land to farm.

    "Whichever you choose will have ill effects. The family-owned farms will probably need more government help. The "corporate" farms will drive the family farmers out of their land and send the old farmers scurrying to urban areas to seek jobs in markets that already have 5+% unemployment rates."

    Good. And any unemployment around 4-5% is excellent. That level tends to reflect the normal felxibility of job transition, not a poor economy. Some unemployment is good.

    "And at what benefit? Do you know how "corporate" farms are more efficient than family farms? Migrant workers. Whether they're illegal or not, you're giving immigrants or illegal aliens jobs and pushing Americans into the ranks of the unemployed. But I wouldn't expect economists to worry about this."

    Ah, but they do. Here's what they say:

    Those jobs suck. That is why Americans will not do them. However, from the perspective of a poor Mexican, it's pretty good. It will feed their family back home. So no one loses in this equation. Itis also a good example of how the minimum wage can increase unemployment for unskilled workers, but in this instance there isn't much replacement.

    Economists are good at figuring out stuff like this. Farmers are not. If you let farmers decide national farm policy (shudder at the term) they will create policies geared towards helping farmers. That is bad policy. It is crony capitalism. And it screws consumers in all instances in which it exists.

    Would you put garbagemen in charge of a cities garbage policy too?

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 10:41 AM  

  • I hate kids from farms.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:41 AM  

  • "If an African farmer can produce an ear of corn for 3 cents and an American farmer can produce an ear of corn for 5 cents, who is more efficient?"

    Just because it's cheaper at end cost to you to have Nike have shoes made overseas does not mean that it's more efficient. Producing one ton of corn from 25 acres of land and irrigation instead of 5 acres and no irrigation, that would be an efficiency measurement.

    "Land is land. We can always create new farmleand, and we can always improve yields. The concept of conserving farmland is silly. It's like saying we should conserve city land."

    No, actually your comment is silly. How in God's name can you "create new farmland"? It amazes me that you would even say that. You think the land being farmed right now is being farmed because it's not the best farmland? Land is NOT land when it comes to farming. If you give up good farmland for other purposes, you would need even MORE lesser-quality farmland, or at a bare minimum, have to put more (irrigation, nitrogen, ph-balancing agents, etc.) into the lesser-quality land. That is not my opinion. That is fact. You want inefficiency, take the best half of the (current) farmland away from farmers and see how efficiently crops can be produced.

    "Bullshit. When milk prices go up, farmers benefit. If they don't, then they are very, very stupid, and should set up their own wholesale shops."

    Bullshit? I think not. Did you read my comment about the price of milk to farmers between late '70s and late '90s? It's true. The price per 100 lbs of milk TO THE FARMER was the same 20 years later. If you think that makes farmers stupid, then so be it. But that's an opinion. If you were a farmer during that time, you'd have thought quite differently.

    "You wish to destroy Wal-MArt through regulation? That is akin to attacking them with tanks. If you don't like them, shop elsewhere and out-compete them. They are one of the biggest boons to poor Americans ever."

    They are also in the business of making Americans poor. Minimum-wage employment with no benefits. But I never said I wanted to get rid of them, through regulation or otherwise. It was an analogy. How that meant I wanted to destroy Wal-mart, I'm not sure.

    "Bullshit. We produce more food now than at any other time in history using less land. Yields improve all the time. This is unquestionably a good thing. As other nations gain technologically our farming needs will probably decrease further. Moreover, even if they don't we can always buy more land to farm."

    There you go, talking about inventing or buying more of this mysterious farmland. I'm not sure where you think it's coming from, or why you think any good farmland isn't already being farmed. Just because I run out of room to grow flowers in my flowerbed doesn't mean i can just move on to the sidewalk and plant them there.

    "Good. And any unemployment around 4-5% is excellent. That level tends to reflect the normal felxibility of job transition, not a poor economy. Some unemployment is good."

    So you'd rather give government money to people without a job, than people trying to make a good run at it. At least I know where you're coming from now.

    "Those jobs suck. That is why Americans will not do them. However, from the perspective of a poor Mexican, it's pretty good. It will feed their family back home. So no one loses in this equation. Itis also a good example of how the minimum wage can increase unemployment for unskilled workers, but in this instance there isn't much replacement."

    Yes, I've heard it all before. But my point was that you're driving out American farmers who ARE doing the work in favor of having (possibly illegal) immigrants do the same work, and the American farmers becomming umemployed. How is that a job that Americans won't do?

    "Economists are good at figuring out stuff like this. Farmers are not. If you let farmers decide national farm policy (shudder at the term) they will create policies geared towards helping farmers. That is bad policy. It is crony capitalism. And it screws consumers in all instances in which it exists."

    The economist theory again. They know money, they don't know farming. Soil conservation/erosion prevention is more important than any economist will ever know. But it will make the $4.00 cake he/she buys $0.15 cheaper, so it's got to be better that way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:28 PM  

  • I hate kids from farms.

    Very helpful factual information. I appreciate your input.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:30 PM  

  • Actually, we make terrible use of most of our farmland. For instance, there is no excuse to grow sugar producing crops anywhere in the mainland United States. We do so because it is an entrenched crop, not because it's efficient.

    Your definition of efficient is incorrect. That is a fact.

    What do you mean we can't get more farmland? Dan already made this point, all of the farmland we have now was created. I can settle this very simply:

    "There you go, talking about inventing or buying more of this mysterious farmland. I'm not sure where you think it's coming from, or why you think any good farmland isn't already being farmed. Just because I run out of room to grow flowers in my flowerbed doesn't mean i can just move on to the sidewalk and plant them there."

    Uhm, no. If your flower bed gets full and you want to expand into the sidewalk, you can call your local government official and make an offer. It might cost a bit more than you're willing to pay, but I'm sure if you offered enough the local gov. would sell. Then you could hire a crew to break up the cement, and bring in some soil. Voila, you've done it.

    You can't "just go do it" as you say, but you can do it if it's worth it to you.

    Farmers know how to plant stuff. They know jack squat about whether or not they should receive tax dollars. You already made this point when discussing farm boys and education. If farmers are so erudite about such matters as large scale national grants, perhaps they should give up farming and become lobbyist.

    Perhaps they could lobby for federal grants for lobbyists. That makes almost as much sense as farm subsidies, actually.


    Wal-Mart is in the business of selling low cost goods to poor people.

    Proponets of economic protection are in the business of making people poor. In many countries they have been spectacularly successful.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 2:01 PM  

  • Actually, we make terrible use of most of our farmland.

    That's a bold claim. Are you basing that statement on an assumption that every farmer out there is trying to grow crops to sell?

    Your definition of efficient is incorrect. That is a fact.

    This coming from a guy who yesterday defined efficiency on how much money it costs an END-BUYER to purchase something? How is efficiency NOT based on how much of something you can produce based on the resources needed, including land, water, labor, time, etc.? It's solely based on money? One definition of efficiency: "The ratio of the effective or useful output to the total input in any system." Sure sounds like the efficient I was using. Not sure which word you're thinking of.

    What do you mean we can't get more farmland? Dan already made this point, all of the farmland we have now was created.

    Danny's point had nothing to do with whether we can make MORE farmland. It's the same reason waterfront property is expensive. We don't just MAKE more of it. To BE farmland, it has to be suitable for farming. You can't just look and say "oh look, there's a marsh/bog that hasn't been made into farmland, we'll use that land." There's a REASON it's not farmland already. Again, I'm not sure why you think if we run out, we'll just make more. Who has they undeveloped land that's suitable for farming that's not being farmed?

    I can settle this very simply:

    "There you go, talking about inventing or buying more of this mysterious farmland. I'm not sure where you think it's coming from, or why you think any good farmland isn't already being farmed. Just because I run out of room to grow flowers in my flowerbed doesn't mean i can just move on to the sidewalk and plant them there."

    Uhm, no. If your flower bed gets full and you want to expand into the sidewalk, you can call your local government official and make an offer. It might cost a bit more than you're willing to pay, but I'm sure if you offered enough the local gov. would sell. Then you could hire a crew to break up the cement, and bring in some soil. Voila, you've done it.

    You can't "just go do it" as you say, but you can do it if it's worth it to you.


    So, what, in the future, if we need more farmland, we just ask our government to allow us to chop down national forests or destroy suburban areas to make farmland out of? That's even more ridiculous than thinking they'd let you tear up the sidewalk.

    If you look into the future and see land needing to be bought back from developed areas to be turned back into farmland out of need, you'd see that any "extra" money consumers or the government is throwing the farmers' way now is not even a drop in the bucket of how much these farm products would cost if the land had to be bought BACK, and that price recouped via the sales of those products. Other than buying developed land BACK, I just don't see where you're coming up with this new farmland. And in the buy-back scenario, crops are scary-expensive.

    Farmers know how to plant stuff. They know jack squat about whether or not they should receive tax dollars.

    Right, and the farmers were the ones that voted on it, too, not the legislators. Oh right, it WAS the legislators. Either way, it's best left up to celebrities to decide, because THEY know.

    Wal-Mart is in the business of selling low cost goods to poor people.

    Proponets of economic protection are in the business of making people poor. In many countries they have been spectacularly successful.


    So much like the oilfields of the middle east, our farmland is being protected such that the farmers are rich beyond their wildest dreams and the rest of the country is a big ball of famine-and-disease?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:12 PM  

  • Dude, do you know how much of America is totally untouched right now? Do you know how much land could be farm land but isn't? It's a lot. It isn't farmland right now because we make too much food as it is, not because it can't be made into farmland. Lake front property is expensive because there isn't all that much of it and people want it and once people have it they aren't very willing ot sell it. It's supply and demand. We are never going to reach a time in the future where we say "shit! we need more farmland or we'll all starve." You only need to do two things to see how obvious this is. 1) Look at the current population figures and note that they are plateauing in the world and are no longer growing at all in most of the western world. 2) Look at an F-ing map. There is so much land and we have such good technology that if we'd let the market have at the farming industry we'd have tons of food as we needed it.

    Who are you by the way? Are you a farmer? You should consider taking an economics class.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 3:43 PM  

  • "Danny's point had nothing to do with whether we can make MORE farmland."

    Actually, that was exactly my point. People once made farmland by clearcutting etc. If you let it bee it would go back to something close to its original state and if you needed to farm it again you could clearcut it again.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 3:44 PM  

  • "Danny's point had nothing to do with whether we can make MORE farmland. It's the same reason waterfront property is expensive. We don't just MAKE more of it."

    Sure we do. We make waterfront property all the time. I was just at some a few weekends ago. If there is demand for something, someone will develop it.

    As for the "most farmers make bad use of their land" claim, it's like any other subsidized venutre. Some farmers have to find work to do. Most of that found work, like sugar farming, is stupid and useless. There is too much farmland here.

    As for your unfortunate grasp of the concept of efficiency, let's assume that the greatest farmland ever is underneath the empire state building. It can produce enough crops to feed all the country for a year. Let's put that at about 1 trillion bucks.

    Now let's assume that the building, as it stands, contains businesses operating to produce about 8 trillion dollars, and that the proximity that they all share, being in NY, close to each other, etc., is responsible for about 3 trillion of that 8. It is specialized for high finance and big business.

    Now let's assume that there are vast swaths of farmland in the middle of the country with the same capacity to grow food as the one small section of Manhattan. Finally, assume demand for food is constant.

    By your definition of efficieny we should destroy the economy and start planting in manhattan. By mine, we should farm land that is suitable for farmland more than it is suitable for anything else. That is the nature of efficieny. You should use your resources in such a way that they generate the greatest output.

    If it costs os much more to farm here than it does elsewhere in the world, use the land here for something more productive, and let other people use their land for farming.

    Where will we find land in the future if we want to increase crop output? How about India, or China, or Africa, or South America? But it is beside the point. The population of the world will eventually plateau, as it already has in Europe and parts of the US, and yields/acre will continue to increase. Less farmland will be needed. More development or state-of-nature conservation can be enacted.

    If we need more land later we don't ask our government for jack shit. We buy it. That's how you get stuff in this country. By buying it.

    Farmers lobby. And they are good at it. They're representatives vote to give them money.

    Would you be in favor of subsidizing other businesses? How about TV manufacturing, or automobiles, or cheap plastic action figure manufacturing? Why not? Screw Taiwan.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 3:54 PM  

  • First off, I think both of you would be surprised how much of the non farmland and non developed land in this country would be ill-suited to farm. You both seem to think you can take any land and make it into farmland. You can TRY, but that doesn't mean you'll end up with good farmland, or even marginal farmland. There's a reason ranges are ranges, and made where they are. And the wooded areas are probably the same way, not to mention we need wooded areas to still produce wood. Heck, 20% of the land in this country is farmland already. And think of all the mountains, deserts, and Alaskan land that isn't part of that 20% and can never be. And some of the other countries you're trying to point out aren't perfect spots to grow crops either. Mostly, they're probably helped just by the low cost of labor and/or lifestyle.

    As for the "most farmers make bad use of their land" claim, it's like any other subsidized venutre. Some farmers have to find work to do. Most of that found work, like sugar farming, is stupid and useless. There is too much farmland here.

    "Too much farmland here." That's an odd way to put it. If grain-based fuel ever became a viable alternative to petroleum-based fuel, that sentence would become ridiculously false in a heartbeat.

    By your definition of efficieny we should destroy the economy and start planting in manhattan.

    Whoa. By correctly defining efficiency, I have neither written nor implied anything of the sort. Track back. All I asked was if African farmers were more efficient than American farmers, since I didn't think that they were. You broke into something about money, and I said that end-cost to a consumer wasn't an efficiency ruler. ALL I was doing was trying to define the efficiency metric. Somewhere one of your gaskets blew and you accused me of trying to rip down the empire state building to grow crops. Wow. All I wanted to know what if African farmers were more efficient than American farmers, and I still never caught an answer. If you STILL have trouble defining efficiency and correctly using it to answer a simple question, just drop it. I can live without an answer. I don't need to be accused of knocking down any more American buildings.

    "If it costs os much more to farm here than it does elsewhere in the world, use the land here for something more productive, and let other people use their land for farming."

    It costs more to produce alot of things in this country than elsewhere. Where do you put an end to it? Weren't you behind the idea of an ex-luxury cruiseliner housing IT staff just off the coast, too? This will be a great country when everyone in it is a professional athlete, a Wal-mart employee, an entertainer, serving in the armed forces, or a politician. GREAT.

    ... yields/acre will continue to increase. Less farmland will be needed.

    So you're going to depend on yield continuing to increase. And what of nature? You know, droughts hit this country HARD. In years where a drought covers much of the country, farmers are in dire circumstances just to feed their animals. A freeze hits Florida and I can't buy produce at my grocery store. If you let supply come way down near the level of demand, you'll end up paying the price in the long run anyway, because there will be some years when supply will be low or non-existent based on weather conditions. What does demand do then? Drive up prices. I know a little econ. But farming doesn't -- CAN'T -- follow the same supply-demand chain as, say, producing toys. When little Johnny doesn't get his PS3 for Christmas, he doesn't starve to death, nor does his herd of cattle. And heck, maybe Sony can kick production in so little Johnny can still get one for his birthday in late January. Sony kicks in production, and gets things moving. Some crazy-ass weather pattern screws up crops in Africa in year X, we can't just say, "OK, flip the switch back on and give us our own farms back." And even if you could get the farms back instantly, crops STILL don't grow instantly. Basically, if there's anything I DO want a surplus of in this world, it's food. I don't want to look ten years down the road and say, "well, that SHOULD be enough, because by the agricultural equivalent of Moore's Law, yield should be X amount higher."

    If we need more land later we don't ask our government for jack shit. We buy it. That's how you get stuff in this country. By buying it.

    Buy some forest land and start clear-cutting it to turn it into farmland and see if the government isn't knocking on your door the next day. That's not to mention that it's not cheap to prepare land for farming, even if the government would let you do it. And it's not a point anyway of citizen X deciding he needs more farmland, so he buys it from rancher Y or forester Z or the government or someone who just randomly has land just sitting there doing nothing productive. What, are you going to buy land in Alaska from the government to grow corn on?

    Farmers lobby.

    You see alot of farmers hanging around in Madison? I don't know that I've ever heard of a farmer going out of his/her way to contact his/her representative, or even a lobbyist. The actual prospect of seeing a farmer trying to lobby kind of makes me laugh.

    Would you be in favor of subsidizing other businesses?

    Yeah, Wal-mart. http://money.cnn.com/2004/05/24/news/fortune500/walmart_subsidies/
    Or sports stadiums so steroid freaks can make 25+million a year. Or airlines. Yeah, 'cuz airlines have done "smarter" business than farmers, they deserve to be rescued.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:32 PM  

  • "Danny's point had nothing to do with whether we can make MORE farmland."

    Actually, that was exactly my point. People once made farmland by clearcutting etc. If you let it bee it would go back to something close to its original state and if you needed to farm it again you could clearcut it again.


    Actually, you contradict yourself in this very paragraph. If you don't see how, then I can see why you haven't been able to convince me that you know what you're talking about.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:34 PM  

  • "Actually, you contradict yourself in this very paragraph. If you don't see how, then I can see why you haven't been able to convince me that you know what you're talking about."

    After reading this whole thing I can see why danny hasn't been able to convince you that he knows what he's talking about. It's because you are retarded. I think a lot farmers in WI are represented by lobbyists from Dewitt Ross & Stevens by the way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:48 AM  

  • when people who are well versed in economics talk about economics with a farmer there are bound to be some miscommunications. The farmer obviously doesn't even know what efficiency means. Comparative advantage is way beyond his grasp. Or he is misunderstanding on purpose. Either way, you noonan boys should just give up.

    -Eric

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:52 AM  

  • Yeah, at this point we're not even speaking the same language, and I don't have time for econ 101 today.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 8:22 AM  

  • I give up. You want to save farmers in Africa by getting rid of farm subsidies here. Yet that does nothing to guarantee farmers in Africa survive. Just because the US quits subsidies does not mean other developed countries do as well. And it also doesn't mean that all the farmers in this country quit producing crops.

    The largest farm subsidy spending in this country's history happened within the last ten years. Maybe, just MAYBE that makes sense. When the economy is terrible, maybe the government SHOULD spend money to keep more people from adding to the unemployment pool, effectively paying them to do NOTHING. Then again, I'm sure you disagree with this. We should try -- keyword TRY -- to protect the farmers in other countries rather than our own. Right. Got it. Never mind that European countries subsidize their crops up to four times as much or more than the US.

    Rather than clean up farm subsidies, we'll just get rid of them altogether? No disaster aid? No land conservation? Nothing? If the government programs are not working the way they were intended, maybe they just need changing and tweaking. If the wrong people are getting the money or the benefits, change it so the right ones do. Getting rid of all government aid to farmers just has bad idea written all over it.

    Maybe getting rid of, or at least highly modifying, farming subsidies is the right thing to do. I just don't think your arguments are the right ones to be using. I highly disagree that they should be gone completely. I see economic, environmental, and moral issues with most everything you're saying. I think that using economic data from the early 2000s is dangerous at this point with the way the global and domestic economy was during that time. You're dealing primarily with economic issues, yet throwing in the moral issues about third-world farmers. Yet you have NO way to know if getting rid of subsidies would guarantee that. So I don't respect the fact that you'd throw that argument in as a reason to get rid of subsidies. And I really think you have no clue how important it is for farmers to have incentive to protect the environment.

    Yet I'm the retarded one. Gee, thanks, but no thanks. Bye.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:13 AM  

  • "Just because the US quits subsidies does not mean other developed countries do as well."

    "Never mind that European countries subsidize their crops up to four times as much or more than the US."

    That "fact" is not correct. However, even if it were, this post was about a farm subsidies in America, Europe and Japan. Not just the US. It says America and Europe in the post but the celebs note Japan as well.

    Of course ending farm subsidies wouldn't guarantee that third world farmers would survive but it would guarantee a level playing field for them and lower taxes and less expensive food for Americans. So Anonymous, are you a farmer or what?

    -Eric

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:38 AM  

  • So Anonymous, are you a farmer or what?

    No. Actually, about as far away from it as you can get (not geographically). If I was, I'm sure I'd have alot more heated words to say.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 AM  

  • Hmm. as far from a a farmer as you can get. And we know you don't like lawyers and lack a basic understanding of economics. I'm guessing you are either a window cleaner in a big city, a martial arts instructor or a clown.
    -Eric

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:18 AM  

  • You know what, I don't like lawyers, but that was only a lucky assumption you made, since nothing I said here should have indicated that I do not like lawyers. The reason I don't like lawyers is actually very basic, but I'm sure I won't be able to explain it to you. And the not understanding economics dig -- well, I'll let you get away with that one because I said before just to drop it.

    As far as the values that you apparently apply to farmers to come up with the jobs you listed, I can see where differences of opinion arise. Thanks for sharing, I might hold onto that one for a laugh later.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:52 PM  

  • Oooh...the Noonan boys have taken economics classes and read Friedman and Krugman and are lawyers...they must be experts on ag subsidies.

    I don't know if a degree in ag econ and a law degree qualify me at all, but Anonymous makes some good points about things to take into consideration related to ag subsidies. It's a complicated issue and not as black and white as some celebrities and self-proclaimed experts would lead you to believe.

    BTW, the patronizing and condescending tone adopted by the Noonans and their pal Eric in this thread is kind of disgusting. I realize that Anonymous contributed to the name-calling, but discussions such as this are generally more productive if at least some of the participants refrain from the mud-slinging.

    By Blogger Dmitri Olive, at 7:36 PM  

  • "BTW, the patronizing and condescending tone adopted by the Noonans and their pal Eric in this thread is kind of disgusting."

    "Oooh...the Noonan boys have taken economics classes and read Friedman and Krugman and are lawyers...they must be experts on ag subsidies."

    In the exact same comment. heh. Okay. Why don't you enlighten us? I'm sure you are brilliant because you allegedly have a degree in ag econ and a JD. But since your comment contained no substance, I have not witnessed your brilliance first hand.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 8:30 PM  

  • I made several specific points about corn, sugar, yield/per/acre, subsidies are bad in general because they create bubbles (they're also stealing from me to give to farmers), and that subsidies create subsidy factories (ie, businesses that exist solely due to the subsidy).

    None of these was ever answered. You haven't contributed anything outside of lending the authority of your alleged ag econ degree to anonymous's rantings. Way to go.

    Also, if you were worth anything as an economist, you would have realized that the name dropping of Pauly K and Milt was not meant to impress, as you imply in your assertion that I don't know what I'm talking about, and was in fact meant to make the point that those on opposite sides of the econ spectrum (and really, can you get more opposite than Paul and Milt in mainstream econ? Would Paul even exist without Milt?) think that farm subsidies are a bad idea. I'm not sure how you could not pick up on that. It's pretty obvious, really.

    BTW: You are more likely to be treated with a patronizing tone if you happen to be anonymous. Especially if you take the same tone.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 8:39 AM  

  • You know what? You guys who know so damn much about how to farm "efficiently" should just put your money where your fat mouths are. If you can produce more for less, be my guest.

    If you are such dullards as to believe that technology alone can produce crops on demand, I would like to see you produce corn or wheat by just using a computer. Things such as weather patterns and soil capacity have to be taken into consideration.

    More farmland? Wow. Not even gonna go there.

    I farm. As such I do not have the luxury of ample amounts of time to cruise blogs and post comments so I too am anonymous. I actually have to do things with my days, such as be a productive member of society. (Even though lots of people on here would like to see me put out of business and starve to death.)

    Ever hear of a rich farmer?

    Luke

    By Anonymous Luke, at 6:55 AM  

  • See, this is why we shouldn't let farmers decide economic policy when grants are at stake. Feigned concern for the state of food production when they're actually looking out for number 1. There's nothing wrong with looking out for #1 so long as no subsidies are involved. Let's break down Luke:

    You know what? You guys who know so damn much about how to farm "efficiently" should just put your money where your fat mouths are. If you can produce more for less, be my guest.

    I've already covered this. End subsidies and poor people in other countries will do just that.

    If you are such dullards as to believe that technology alone can produce crops on demand, I would like to see you produce corn or wheat by just using a computer. Things such as weather patterns and soil capacity have to be taken into consideration.

    I have never said anything to contradict this statement. I have merely stated a few facts about crop yields increasing, as well as the fact that farmland is more fungible than farmers would have you believe, as you can see from the fact that the US onnce had no farmland at all.

    More farmland? Wow. Not even gonna go there.

    I wouldn't either. You'll just end up looking silly. Moreso.

    I farm.

    Give me money!

    As such I do not have the luxury of ample amounts of time to cruise blogs and post comments so I too am anonymous. I actually have to do things with my days, such as be a productive member of society. (Even though lots of people on here would like to see me put out of business and starve to death.)

    So, what you're saying is that you don't cruise blogs, even though you're here. YOu're also saying that you can't compete without a handout, and can't survive if you can't farm.

    I've got news for you. People try to put ALL businesses out of business. It's called competition. It's what makes America function. Cry me a frickin' river. If you can't compete at farming, maybe you need to change careers.

    Ever hear of a rich farmer?

    Yes, and I'm sure you have too. In fact, many of my wife's relatives were rich farmers in the 80's in the golden days of subsidies and lack of international competition. You know, when we couldn't get things like Papaya or Paprika or Pruschutto, because they were not American.

    And you know perfectly well that there are still rich farmers. They just own giant farms now, and look more like corporations than they do farms.

    Your argument boils down to a desire for me to give you money.

    That's a pretty shitty argument.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 8:43 AM  

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