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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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Jim Vesely
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Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
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Lee Moriwaki
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Joni Balter
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Eric Devericks
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Lance Dickie
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Lance Dickie
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Bruce Ramsey
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Bruce Ramsey
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Kate Riley
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Kate Riley
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Lynne Varner
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Lynne Varner
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Ryan Blethen
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Ryan Blethen
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April 25, 2005

Why subsidize the wheat farmer?

A reader from eastern Washington made a comment about subsidies, and I responded, ďHow about subsidies to wheat growers?Ēóknowing that he was one. He replied:

The odd thing is that I get the subsidy and then deposit it into my checking account and then I pay all of my bills to the local merchants, people that work for me, etc and you know there isnít anything left. Farmers get lots of criticism for getting subsidies but in reality it goes to all of the people in my community, some of which criticize me for getting the subsidyÖ

In the case of ag commodities I raise wheat and compete with people in other countries that raise wheat. The producers in some of the countries that compete with my wheat are subsidized by their governments. In addition they donít have many of the regulations that I face in growing my crop. I would much rather have a level playing field to compete with those producers but that probably isnít going to happen.

How about you? Do you prefer to buy your food from some third world country where they use chemicals that US producers are prohibited from using? Do you actually think someone is inspecting the food that comes into our country? They donít seem to be doing a very good job of keeping out people from other countries so donít expect them to do a good job of inspecting food produced in other countries.

Iím opposed to subsidizing farmers. In my view, the demand for food will support a certain number of farmers with a reasonable profit, and some marginal ones just hanging on, and that the net effect of subsidies is to create a whole new set of marginal farmers just hanging on. If the subsidy went away, the number of farmers would drop, some marginal land would go out of farming and the price of the formerly subsidized farmland would fall. Most farmers would adjust, as they adjust to the weather.

I donít worry about foreign food. When I buy a bag of flour I donít know if the wheat comes from the United States or Canada. I eat Thai rice and donít worry about it. I occasionally eat basmati rice from India or Pakistan. I was recently in Hong Kong and India, and though I worried about the water in India, and about eating fresh salads, I never worried about the chappatis, puris, or the other things made from flour. I lived with my family in Hong Kong for almost four years, and we were careful to wash the fresh vegetables, many of which came from China, where the farmers occasionally put on too much pesticide. We never worried about food products packaged in a modern factory. I figured that if the product were making people sick I would hear about it.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at April 25, 2005 05:34 PM



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