First, let me clarify a point from my earlier blog on biofuels and farm subsidies. Food should cost more than it does for two reasons: because the true costs of production are not factored in to the price, and because a large portion of the price is currently paid by government in the form of subsidies. What I failed to clarify adequately was my view that these costs should be borne by American consumers - not the farmers.
When I criticized farm subsidies I was not criticizing the farmers who have become dependent upon them, but rather an inefficient and undesirable way of funding agriculture.
We pride ourselves on being a democracy that thrives on a free market system. Subsidies distort free market forces, hide the true cost of food to consumers, and often encourage wasteful production practices.
For example, subsidizing diesel for agriculture encourages excessive tillage, a practice we are trying to discourage to improve soil and moisture conservation. It is generally agreed by economists in the World Trade Organization, including the American representatives, that agricultural subsidies are not a good thing, do not encourage sustainable and efficient agriculture, and should be ultimately abolished. But no country is willing to take the first step in eliminating subsidies because in doing so they put their own farmers at an immediate economic disadvantage. Only if all countries acted simultaneously would no single country be disadvantaged by acting first. Farmers would obtain the same profits, but consumers would pay more of their actual food bill at the supermarket and less of it through taxes.