A Libertarian Fix to American Foreign Policy: Agricultural Subsidies

The United States needs a new approach to foreign policy that emphasizes success domestically without compromising the sovereignty of international actors. Deregulation and emphasizing free trade is the best approach to contemporary foreign policy. The first step to a better foreign policy is ending American farm subsidies.

Farm subsidies were first created in 1922 and expanded through the Great Depression to save American farmers. Unlike ninety years ago, however, most Americans do not rely on farming for income. Of the 307 million people living in the United States, 2% live on farms, and only 1% claim to be farmers. Despite these small numbers, the United States spent $177.6 billion on subsidies between 1995 and 2006; the amount that the US spends is highly disproportionate to the population and demand for the product. Given that so few people benefit at such a high cost to the nation, Congress should consider cutting farm subsidies.

In addition to wasting taxpayer dollars, agriculture subsidies also promote poor food choices. Interest in the success of invested foods influences scientific research alongside corporate gains. While growing agriculture business flourishes with the nod of the federal government, Americans have no access to the real market prices of their groceries. For example, corn subsidies led to mass consumption of high fructose corn syrup. Resultantly, the obesity rate continues to grow. Agriculture subsidies create a critical public health problem.

Opponents of subsidy repeal fear backlash; they argue that without subsidies, farmers will no longer be able to make a living, adding to unemployment in America. While this may be true in some cases, a repeat of the farmer job loss comparable to the Great Depression is highly unlikely in today’s technological economy. Most individuals receiving farm subsidies are a part of a larger agrarian business that has resources to restructure to better fit the country’s farming needs. These companies should change their business models in response to real demand, not just guaranteed subsidies. This shift may lead to planting different crops to diversify income, resulting in not only farmers keeping their jobs, but a more varied grocery market. While cutting subsidies does not guarantee job creation, the potential for balancing the budget, granting greater access to food, and aiding the domestic and world economy far outweighs the cons of continuing agriculture subsidies.

The effect of this domestic policy is global. Excess produce that is not sold in the United States moves into the international market at subsidized prices. The artificially low cost gives American food a distinct advantage over competing economies because it is cheaper, so much so that it ultimately prohibiting emergent economies (that tend to have much larger farming populations) from competing. Thus, the US agrarian business keeps farmers in agrarian countries from making a profit from the international market. While US agriculture subsidies do provide cheaper food for the poor internationally, they also keep the poor at a disadvantage from entering the world’s economy. Ending food subsidies domestically would do far more in foreign aid than the government can afford to do now.

Because of farm subsidies, access to food in America has spread from a domestic issue to an international predicament. While these government grants had legitimacy in the past, there is no longer a need for their continuance. As the world maintains its steady course into recession, policy makers must place faith in the free market. Ending farm subsidies will end needless taxes, aid the poor domestically and internationally, and restructure the grocery business. Politicians should cut these needless subsidies in an effort to promote free trade and rejuvenate the economy.