In a perfect world, everything that was sold, everything that was purchased and consumed would be local, so the economy would receive the benefit of that.
That’s new Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaking to members of the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates. According to Farm Futures, he also told the group that farmers should
…accept the political reality that U.S. farm program direct payments are under fire both at home and abroad and therefore farmers should develop other sources of income. In his remarks to the groups he said he intends to promote a far more diversified income base for the farm sector, saying that windmills and biofuels should definitely be part of the income mix and that organic agriculture will also play an increasing role.
This is a nice change, but I’m not sold yet. My concern is that Democrats almost always believe that the only worthwhile fix is more money or a new program. Vilsack has also gone on record stating that he intends to institute all sorts of new grant programs, loan opportunities, marketing initiatives, and other such geegaws to “help” small farmers develop their businesses.
Thanks, but no thanks. It doesn’t do any more good to throw taxpayer money at small farms than at large farms. Besides, many of the biggest barriers to small farms are regulatory. What’s the point of spending money to convince consumers to buy local meat and dairy if the law makes it difficult and expensive to produce such items at a small, direct-market scale? What’s the point of creating new tax breaks for small farms when the current tax code is already so complex as to force them to hire accountants? What’s the point of marketing local food products when farms can’t even sell salads without a commercial kitchen?
Anyway, before I get too sourpuss on this, I’ll go back to the top and express my great appreciation for the quotes above, as I never thought I’d hear them from a national government figure. Now if Secretary Vilsack could just figure out that if he wants to help small farmers off their back, he should lift his boot in addition to extending his hand.