6 Facts You Didn’t Hear at the House Rural Economy Hearing

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

At today’s House Agriculture Committee hearing on the state of the rural economy, Chairman K. Michael Conaway set the tone for increasing farm subsidy spending.

“There is real potential here for a crisis in rural America,” he said.

But the sky is not falling, as Chairman Conaway would lead his fellow policymakers to believe. Here are some key takeaways that were left out of the discussion:

  1. While there are plenty of economic challenges in rural America, increasing farm subsidies will give a boost to wealthy farming households while doing little for small producers. Since 1995, 77 percent of subsidy dollars have gone to just 10 percent of all recipients.
  2.  Most jobs in rural America are in manufacturing, transportation, energy and services – not agriculture. In fact, only 6 percent of non-metropolitan jobs are tied to farming.
  3. While unemployment rates remain higher in rural counties than urban counties, farm household income remains high. Median farm household income is expected to grow in 2017 and remain well above the median income for non-farm households.
  4. Many major commodities, including cotton, dairy and soybeans, are projected to see better returns in 2017 – even as cotton industry groups press Congress for a new $10 billion subsidy.
  5. Expanding organic production in the U.S. would greatly expand market opportunities for American farmers, while also allowing U.S. companies to be less reliant on organic imports.
  6. Many members of the committee referenced keeping food affordable as a justification for our farm support programs. However, subsidies and crop insurance don’t lower food prices. The cost of producing food only makes up around 10 percent of what we pay for it at the grocery store.

If Congress wants to look out for rural communities, it should start by making sure that rural Americans have clean drinking water. Rural drinking water has been hit hard by unregulated farm pollution, and making sure everyone has clean drinking water is something on which everyone – even this Congress – should be able to agree. 


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