Acton Institute Powerblog

Who receives farm subsidies?

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There’s a persistent myth in Europe and America that farms subsidies are needed to protect the “family farm” and all the virtues that accompany rural life. Religious leaders and Catholic Bishops conferences seem to be especially prone to this argument.

Well, that myth is starting become exposed for what it actually is – protectionism by wealthy, politically-influential, corporate farm lobbies.

The EUObserver reports that a new website,, has been launched today. The website is not yet fully operational, but once it is, it will begin to shed much needed light on this troublesome issue.

Go check out the site, offer comments, and help get this project off the ground.

Europeans are very proud of their democratic credentials, so they should be eager to find out just where their money is going.

The up-side of all this could be freer trade and effective help (as opposed to more governmental aid) for developing countries.

Stay tuned.

Kishore Jayabalan Kishore Jayabalan is director of Istituto Acton, the Acton Institute's Rome office. Formerly, he worked for the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as the lead policy analyst on sustainable development and arms control. Kishore Jayabalan earned a B.A. in political science and economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In college, he was executive editor of The Michigan Review and an economic policy intern for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He worked as an international economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C. and then graduated with an M.A. in political science from the University of Toronto. While in Toronto, Kishore interned in the university's Newman Centre, which led to his appointment to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York. Two years later, he returned to Rome to work for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace as the Holy See's lead policy analyst on sustainable development and arms control. As director of Istituto Acton, Kishore organizes the institute's educational and outreach efforts in Rome and throughout Europe.


  • I think myth #2 is that farm subsidies are actually Protectionist. I can tell you first hand that your actual subsidy from the government (USDA etc) has been declining on a bushel by bushel basis for many years. Various nitwits divide total USDA spending by total bushels in production and claim that is a “subsidy per bushell of corn (beans, etc)” In reality the actual payment to producers, on a per bushell basis has been going down for some time now.

    That’s right-the money actually going to a producer (family or otherwise, its all the same) has been going down for about 10 years now, while total USDA spending has been going up. You might ask, where does it go then?

    Join the Farmers who ask the same thing. It does not go to corporate farms; It does not go to family farms. It goes to form a more bloated and useless USDA.


  • JBP:

    I have to admit that I’m curious; this isn’t the first time you’ve defended agricultural subsidies (see [url=]here[/url]). For a guy who has claimed to be “100% against subsidy and tariff” (quoting from that earlier thread), you spend a lot of time defending those same subsidies. What’s the deal?

  • I think he’s talking about the particular instance of American farm subsidies, and saying that they aren’t effectively protectionist since they aren’t actually getting to the farmers, or at least they are to a decreasing extent.

  • Marc and Jordan,

    Still 100% against them.

    Ag subsidies (and yes I do receive a few hundred $ a year for a farm I have), are held up to get votes, but have a minimal effect on the ag economy, corporate or family farm. The increase in USDA spending is going to more USDA, not to farming. The tearjerker that they save the family farm is pure political pandering to the uninformed voter.


  • Denise Smith

    Welcome to our political system….and all hell breaks loose if there is even a mention of dropping these ‘subsidies’. The USDA is bloated because that IS what Government agencies do. I find it interesting that we attack our polititians for “going after votes”; but that denies our own responsiblity for the people we elect as well as the process. As a business owner (for 28+ years now), my husband and I receive no ‘subsidies’ for our operation. Yet, as a result of being self-employed we have taken FULL responsibilty for our own retirement, our own healthcare and even employ people during certain seasons. Unless and until Americans decide that they are better off controlling their own destiny vs. depending on the government for ANYTHING….our politicians will not change. They merely reflect who we are as a people. I find the ‘blame-game’ toward the politians WE ELECT….lazy and intellectually dishonest.