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Published February 22, 2010, 12:00 AM

Rep. Bachmann is right about Social Security and farm bill

A Forum editorial (Feb. 12) maintains that Rep. Michele Bachmann’s, R-Minn., views on Social Security and on our farm program make her unfit to be an invited speaker in North Dakota.

By: Delbert Moore, Forbes, N.D.

A Forum editorial (Feb. 12) maintains that Rep. Michele Bachmann’s,

R-Minn., views on Social Security and on our farm program make her unfit to be an invited speaker in North Dakota.

First: Social Security as it exists today is unsustainable for the future. Social Security and Medicare together have unfunded liabilities over time of several hundred trillion dollars. Bachmann has said that Americans need to be “weaned” from Social Security. It is absolutely clear that Social Security cannot in the future be regarded as a prime ingredient of retirement.

President George W. Bush was right in advocating that younger workers be allowed and encouraged to invest some Social Security taxes into private investments. Over any 30-year period, other investments are superior to Social Security in interest yield. We need to develop other savings instruments and greatly increase the American savings rate. We need fewer of the gimmicks of modern living and more investment in our future. Bachmann is not hiding her head in the sand.

Second: Fabrication of the 2008 farm bill took about a year and a half and was filled with more goodies for nearly every small, separate interest group in agriculture than any previous bill. The bill, as passed, continues to favor and support farm expansion and gives most of the money to farmers who need it the least.

Farming is still mostly a family business, but it is a large business run mostly by family members. Of North Dakota’s 32,000 farms, 42 percent have gross receipts of less than $10,000. They are not really farms but rural residences, hobby farms and retirement farms. Another 21 percent have sales between $10,000 and $100,000. IRS data shows that farms with sales of less than $100,000 do not have any net farm income. (More than 85 percent of all income of farmers comes from non-farm sources. Twenty-four percent of all farms in North Dakota have sales between $100,000 and $500,000, and 12 percent have sales of more than $500,000. These farms account for most of farm production.

The structure of the farm bill favors continued growth in farm size because large farms receive most farm program payments because payments are based on the amount of production.

Five billion dollars of farm program payments are “direct payments,” which are based only on the amount of land in various crops previous to 1996. These payments have absolutely no relationship to farm income in total or by individual farm. They are welfare payments without any regard to need. Eighty percent of these payments go to producers on only five crops: corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. No payments go for pasture, hay, or rangeland even though livestock represent half of total farm receipts.

One use of corn (ethanol) given a subsidy of $1.40 for each bushel of corn used to the detriment of other users of corn of which livestock is the largest.

An unmarried farmer with up to $500,000 in non-farm income can collect farm program payments. This amount is usually doubled if the farmer is married. Conservation payments are now made for practices that the farmer is already doing because they are profitable for him.

Bachmann is right in wanting a streamlined and much better bill. This law is also unsustainable.


Moore, Forbes, N.D., runs a cattle and feedlot business.

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