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Policy Memo to Congressman on Farm Bill

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April 2, 2018

The Honorable Rodney P. Frelinghuysen

United States Representative, 11th Congressional District of New Jersey

Committee Chairman, United States House Committee on Appropriations

2306 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515-3011

Re:        Subsidies are Undercutting Sustainable Farming Practice

Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen,

We love food, and the research shows that we produce more food than we need to feed 10 billion people[1], yet we still end up putting much of it into landfills[2] – this then raises the question: why the waste?

Much of the food grown in the US benefits from government funds spent on subsidies or insurance, which costs taxpayers $64.975 billion from FY2014-2018[3]. The problem with government contributions to farming subsidies and insurance is in what they incentivize. Instead of encouraging farmers to conserve land, plant low-risk crops, or implement sustainable practices, subsidies and insurance enable farmers to do quite the opposite.

Farmers insurance incentivizes crop growth in potentially adverse conditions and enables farmers to use high-intensity practices to maximize yields with the assurance that they are protected financially if their crops fail[4]. Subsidies promote the production of single crops, reducing the overall resiliency that a diversified farm would have, and they also enable farmers to flood the markets by promoting unsustainable production to maximize crop yields[5].

The practices that come out of these policies are inherently un-sustainable and do nothing to promote effective resilience of crops or farmlands. Short-term financial gain is therefore encouraged in the name of long-term sustainable profit, and as such, these policies must be re-evaluated in terms of their net contribution to farmers, taxpayers, and wider society.

As the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, you have the power to re-route funds in the national budget toward smarter options and alternatives. Restructuring the farm bill, removing subsidies and farmers’ insurance, will not only save money for taxpayers, but will encourage smart, sustainable practice from farmers who will be able to participate more freely in a fair and open market. Thank you for your consideration. 

Best Regards,

Suggested further reading

[pic 1]

McFadden, Jonathan R., & Hoppe, Robert A. “The Evolving Distribution of Payments From Commodity, Conservation, and Federal Crop Insurance Programs.” EIB-184, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November 2017,

Orden, David, & Zulauf, Carl. “Political Economy of the 2014 Farm Bill.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 11 June 2015,



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