Federalized farming: the United States Department of Agriculture sprouted 150 years ago, during the Lincoln administration, and has since grown enormous, fertilized annually by Washington.Abraham Lincoln instituted the United States Department of Agriculture United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),
n.pr established in 1862, USDA is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products. It conducts ongoing research in areas from human nutrition to new crop technologies and also helps ensure open 150 years ago. It began as a nine-employee information agency charged with research and development responsibilities and commodity plant distribution. This mere seedling bureau would grow into a government leviathan that today manipulates not only agriculture and rural development but also various aspects of our economic, environmental, education, healthcare, and foreign policies.
Its growth would have been easy to predict. The Agricultural Organic Act that Lincoln signed on May 15, 1862, established USDA USDA,
n.pr See United States Department of Agriculture. , authorizing it to conduct research and development related to "agriculture, rural development, aquaculture aquaculture, the raising and harvesting of fresh- and saltwater plants and animals. The most economically important form of aquaculture is fish farming, an industry that accounts for an ever increasing share of world fisheries production. and human nutrition in the most general and comprehensive sense of those terms." (Emphasis added.) Such ambiguous wording invited the rampant regulatory expansion of the next 150 years.
Today USDA dubs itself "an Every Way, Every Day Department," bragging that it "touches the lives of every American, as well as people across the globe." Its marketing materials advertise that USDA supports agricultural communities and economy; protects and conserves natural resources; sends foreign aid around the world; and provides a safe, sufficient, and nutritious domestic food supply.
USDA Origins in Lincoln's Agenda
To understand USDA's true nature it is helpful to have a grasp of the radical political landscape into which the agency was born. Prior to Lincoln's presidential administration, citizens of the United States enjoyed decentralized, limited government framed by the Founding Fathers. During the first 70 years of the nation's history, Congress repeatedly defended the populace against numerous bills intended to unconstitutionally expand federal power. Lincoln's election brought an end to this era.
At its founding, USDA was one-of-a-kind. It was the first department focused on a particular segment of the population. Incredibly and irrationally, private industry farmers suddenly became a special interest group of federal welfare recipients.
USDA's novelty was perfectly in keeping with Lincoln's other policies. As President he suspended habeas corpus (which enables prisoners to be released from unlawful detention) in all states. He thereby imprisoned political adversaries without trial in the North, such as his arrest of pro-Confederate Maryland legislators in September of 1861 to prevent the state from voting to secede. He ordered invasion of the South without congressional approval, declared martial law martial law, temporary government and control by military authorities of a territory or state, when war or overwhelming public disturbance makes the civil authorities of the region unable to enforce its law. , and confiscated private property and firearms. He even had a member of Congress deported to Canada for disagreeing with his policies.
Throughout his administration Lincoln maintained a characteristic disregard for the Constitution. From his earliest campaigning days in Illinois he declared himself in favor of a strong, centralized federal government based on a national bank, special-interest subsidies, and high tariffs. In his book The Real Lincoln, author Thomas J. DiLorenzo points out that the focus of Honest Abe's entire political career was protectionism, federal control of the money supply, and "internal improvements" (i.e., corporate welfare) for private business. He writes that these three planks, ushered in during the War Between the States, resulted in a political patronage system that favors special-interest groups at the expense of taxpayers, stifling the economy but forwarding political careers.
Lincoln found in the War Between the States a rationale to suspend constitutional liberties and establish a highly centralized federal government. In addition to the war, the country suffered rampant federal infringements from the hand of Lincoln, including a central bank and the nation's first income tax, decades prior to the adoption of the 16th (income tax) Amendment in 1913.
His USDA was just the thing to curry political favor with farmers, who made up 50 percent of the population and whose products accounted for 80 percent of national exports in 1862, according to Wayne Rasmussen with the Agricultural History Society. Lincoln admitted that farmers needed no government help in his first address to Congress and, therefore, implicitly acknowledged ulterior motives when he said, "While it is fortunate that this great interest is so independent in its nature as to not have demanded and extorted more from the Government, I respectfully ask Congress to consider whether something more cannot be given voluntarily with great advantage"
To bolster his fledgling department, two months after signing USDA into law Lincoln once again flouted the Constitution to establish the Land Grant Agricultural University System, the first federally funded public universities. This new system provided an army of economists to justify the President's unconstitutional agency. "The funding arrangement for teaching and research in the USDA-Land Grant University complex tends to make agricultural economists (when contrasted with economists generally) much less critical of government intervention in agriculture," wrote E.C. Pasour, Jr., an agricultural economist with North Carolina State University History
The Growth of USDA
Three score and seven years more, the United States would bear the full impact of Lincoln's interventionism in·ter·ven·tion·ism
The policy or practice of intervening, especially:
a. The policy of intervening in the affairs of another sovereign state.
b. . In his book The Business End of Government, former FBI agent Dan Smoot describes the explosion of federal agricultural regulations during the Great Depression. The 1929 Farm Stabilization Act authorized the government to curb falling wheat prices by buying and storing 257 million bushels. This temporarily buoyed small family farms until the winter of 1931-1932 when the government dumped that wheat on the market, driving prices to their lowest in history and bankrupting the same farmers in the middle of the Great Depression.
Enter Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal. FDR's USDA blamed the glut on surplus. Farmers were supposedly producing too much, flooding the market and driving prices too low. Reputedly re·put·ed
Generally supposed to be such. See Synonyms at supposed.
Adv. 1. to save them from themselves and to prevent prices from nose-diving again, the agency conceived the Agricultural Adjustment Acts (AAA) of 1933 and 1938. These bills allowed USDA to pay farmers to destroy crops and animals and to purchase commodities from them for government storage. Meanwhile consumers were thereby forced to pay higher prices for foreign imports of the same commodities. (The reason there were two AAAs is that in 1936 the Supreme Court ruled the first version unconstitutional because the federal government has no authority to regulate or subsidize farming. By 1938, Roosevelt had a New Deal majority on the Supreme Court, so that year's AAA survives to this day as the parent of all subsequent farm laws.)
One example that illustrates the extent of federal control AAA instituted over farming is the 1942 case Wickard v. Filburn Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), is a United States Supreme Court decision interpreting the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, which permits the United States Congress to "regulate Commerce... among the several States. . The USDA fined Ohio farmer Roscoe Filburn and ordered him to destroy his 23-acre wheat crop. Filburn argued he grew the wheat to feed his own livestock, but the problem was he grew too much according to AAA standards. Filburn was only permitted 11 acres of wheat. The farmer sued, and the case went to the highest court in the land. In a ruling of incredible illogic il·log·ic
A lack of logic.
Noun 1. illogic - invalid or incorrect reasoning
illogicality, illogicalness, inconsequence , the Supreme Court sided with USDA, claiming authority under the Interstate Commerce interstate commerce
In the U.S., any commercial transaction or traffic that crosses state boundaries or that involves more than one state. Government regulation of interstate commerce is founded on the commerce clause of the Constitution (Article I, section 8), which Clause (ICC ICC
See: International Chamber of Commerce ). The court said by growing his own wheat, Filburn reduced the amount he needed to purchase, thereby negatively impacting interstate trade. ICC is used to excuse most of USDA's encroachments to this day.
American farmers like Filburn were not actually to blame for the economic havoc of the early 20th century. There was an obvious hole in the "agricultural surplus" argument that federal bureaucrats used to justify AAA. Farmers were not the only producers in the nation getting low prices for their goods. No producers could demand higher prices because (Lincoln-initated) government control of the money supply and centralized bank credit expansion had so eroded public buying power Buying Power
The money an investor has available to buy securities. In a margin account, the buying power is the total cash held in the brokerage account plus maximum margin available.
Also referred to as "Excess Equity. . Smoot states, "Such economic explanations of why the farmer was in bad shape would not have won public acceptance of the government's strange farm program because too few Americans had any understanding of basic economics, but the surplus rationale did; and surplus became the buzz word of all federal farm programs."
President Harry Truman wanted to replace Roosevelt's complex programs by paying farmers a minimum annual income, but Congress rejected this proposal known as the Brannan Plan. Truman did make one lasting mark on agriculture: in 1949, he initiated the International Wheat Agreement, predecessor to the modern International Grains Agreement. It set up a government cartel to regulate global production, price, and distribution of wheat. Nations that choose to ignore this treaty gain a market advantage over those who observe it.
Not to be outdone out·do
tr.v. out·did , out·done , out·do·ing, out·does
To do more or better than in performance or action. See Synonyms at excel. in the international arena, President Dwight Eisenhower's USDA began the "Food for Peace" program in 1954. This complex network of foreign aid shipped our food products to overseas nations, many of which were hostile to the United States. At the same time Eisenhower was giving away our agricultural exports, on the home front AAA programs were still going strong. USDA was terrorizing American farmers with further compulsory wheat acreage allotments. The new regulation placed a quota on all wheat production in the United States. With absolute impunity the "Wheat Police" could invade any farm in the nation and conduct warrantless searches to determine compliance. Violators were fined and/or imprisoned without trial and had absolutely no recourse to the courts, even if the "extra" wheat was intended for livestock feed on the same farm where it was grown. Within the first year, USDA fined 14,000 farmers more than $8.5 million. In terms of today's purchasing power that amounts to more than $71 million.
Public outcry against the Wheat Police forced USDA to relax restrictions a few years later and allow small farmers to grow up to 30 acres of wheat for their own use. (The department had duplicitously nearly doubled its holdings of farm commodities in storage during this three-year "Reign of Terror.") But the Supreme Court continually refused to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of the agency's programs. Free from the bonds of judicial scrutiny, USDA spent the next decades "eliminating surplus" with a myriad of regulations and complex, wasteful programs.
The late 1950s saw the Soil Bank paying farmers to leave their fields fallow fallow
a pale cream, light fawn, or pale yellow coat color in dogs. as Congress hypocritically dammed the Colorado River to cultivate high, arid land never before farmed. Commodity price fixing in the 1960s and 1970s wreaked havoc on agricultural economy and food prices. The USDA enforced unionism on American farmers and ranchers. Even the Reagan deregulation Deregulation
The reduction or elimination of government power in a particular industry, usually enacted to create more competition within the industry.
Traditional areas that have been deregulated are the telephone and airline industries. era of the 1980s ignored agriculture. Foreign aid took on a feed-the-world focus that now amounts to billions of U.S. tax dollars every year. (USDA calls both foreign and domestic assistance programs "missions: a moniker (1) A name, title or alias. See alias.
(2) A COM object that is used to create instances of other objects. Monikers save programmers time when coding various types of COM-based functions such as linking one document to another (OLE). See COM and OLE. with disturbingly religious overtones.)
Government nandours spawned legalized racketeering that continues to this day. "The largest 17 percent of U.S. farms receive almost three-quarters of all government farm payments," wrote Pasour and co-author Randal R. Rucker in their 2005 book, Plowshares & Pork Barrels: The Political Economy of Agriculture, a critical analysis of government farm programs. They make an example of agribusiness giant Riceland Foods, Inc., which USDA subsidized to the tune of nearly $520 million from 1995 to 2003.
The National Agricultural Law Center affirms, "Agriculture is one of the most heavily regulated components of the U.S. economy, with virtually every aspect of agricultural production, processing, distribution and marketing regulated in some manner by the federal. state or local governments" Are all these regulations worth ensuring market stability and consumer safety at the expense of freedom?
Writing for THE NEW AMERICAN online on USDA's 150th birthday, Bruce Walker remarked that without USDA, farmers still have a forceful incentive to provide high-quality products: keeping customers. "Customer goodwill is often the most valuable part of a corporation's assets," wrote Walker. "Farmers have long supported effective private associations--such as sthe Future Farmers of America and 4-H clubs--which help promote farming" And state governments provide ample regulation of agriculture far more effectively and efficiently than the federal government does. Walker continued:
State governments have created small, low-cost (or even user-supported) boards--such as the Boll Weevil Commission --directed at specific problems connected to particular crops. The Vermont Department of Agriculture, for instance, works to optimize the harvesting and marketing of maple syrup, while the Florida Department of Agriculture devotes a great deal of its time and effort to maximizing the Sunshine State's citrus fruit crop.
However, if USDA's goals were true economic stability or public interest, perhaps its existence would be justifiable. Unfortunately the department exists for the socialistic so·cial·is·tic
Of, advocating, or tending toward socialism.
social·is ends of central control and income redistribution, both of which ultimately destabilize markets and violate God-given rights. Agricultural economists Pasour and Rucker argue this very point. In their above-referenced book, they show how federal farm programs disrupt the economy by artificially reducing commodity prices at the same time that others increase the amount farmers receive for those commodities, all through hidden taxes that ultimately harm the consumer. Instead of increasing farming's long-term profitability, price supports increase production costs by raising expenses of land and input resources. Yet while their special-interest designation means the average household income of farm operators typically exceeds that of all U.S. households, farmers are more dependent than ever on government handouts. Annual export subsidies totaling billions of dollars further crush the U.S. taxpayer with higher prices for commodity goods, while damaging foreign relations by interfering with other countries' agricultural economies.
Don't Let the Title Fool You
It doesn't stop with agriculture; the USDA albatross has branched out to the point of absurdity. Regulators have taken Lincoln's 1862 mandate to establish USDA "in the most general and comprehensive sense" beyond the bounds of reason. Many programs operating under the department's 17 umbrella agencies have little if anything directly to do with agriculture. Here is a very small sampling:
* Rural Utilities Service (RUS)--This program is run by USDA's Rural Development agency and, as the name implies, provides infrastructure development to deliver utilities to rural areas. "Electricity, telephone, water and waste disposal services have been taken for granted Adj. 1. taken for granted - evident without proof or argument; "an axiomatic truth"; "we hold these truths to be self-evident"
obvious - easily perceived by the senses or grasped by the mind; "obvious errors" in American cities since at least the 1920's. But if you lived in a rural area only 60 years ago, chances are you went without these necessities of modern life and high standard of living they make possible," bemoans the RUS website. Since when has a high standard of living become a federal entitlement? And though they may make things more convenient, since when are modern utilities "necessities of life?" Regardless, this isn't farming, nor is it the job of the federal government. Private utility companies are perfectly capable of handling the task.
* Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC CCC
A very speculative grade assigned to a debt obligation by a rating agency. Such a rating indicates default or considerable doubt that interest will be paid or principal repaid. Also called Caa. )--Falling under the Farm Service Agency (FSA FSA Financial Services Authority
FSA Food Standards Agency (UK)
FSA Farm Service Agency (USDA)
FSA Financial Services Agency (Japan) ), this government-owned corporation grants loans for, makes purchases and payments for, and coordinates domestic and foreign distribution of agricultural commodities. CCC makes farmers wards of the state. But CCC is not about farming. It's a bank, and banking is one of many areas in which the federal government has no constitutional authority.
* Risk Management Agency (RMA (RealMedia Architecture) See RealMedia. )--Also an arm of FSA, this big-brother bureau operates the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, providing a safety net and risk management services for farmers. America was settled and developed largely by farmers. Have today's descendants of such sturdy stock become so fragile that they cannot manage their own risk without federal help? RMA isn't an agricultural agency. It is a public insurance company, yet another field in which the federal government has no constitutional role.
* Women, Infants and Children (WIC WIC - WAN Interface Card )--According to USDA's 2012 Budget Summary, WIC is the department's largest discretionary program at a cost of $7.4 billion this year. Operating under USDA's Food and Nutrition Service The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was established in August 8, 1969. FNS is the Federal agency responsible for administering the nation’s domestic nutrition assistance programs. (FNS FNS Food and Nutrition Service (USDA)
FNS Fonds National Suisse (French: Swiss National Science Foundation)
FNS Federated Naming Service
FNS Friedrich Naumann Stiftung ), it provides food vouchers and nutrition education to pregnant women and their children up to age five. According to the Summary, "Over half of those born in the United States receive WIC benefits." Yet preventable problems such as childhood obesity and malnutrition are escalating. This is just one of many unconstitutional and ineffective intrusions into healthcare by the federal government, with no direct relation to agriculture.
* Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid--FNS coordinates with another USDA agency, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture created on December 1, 1994, and is the focal point within the USDA where scientific research is linked with the nutritional needs of the American public. (CNPP CNPP Centre National de Prévention et de Protection
CNPP USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
CNPP Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant ), as well as the Departments of Health and Human Services Noun 1. Health and Human Services - the United States federal department that administers all federal programs dealing with health and welfare; created in 1979
Department of Health and Human Services, HHS and Education, to foist foist
tr.v. foist·ed, foist·ing, foists
1. To pass off as genuine, valuable, or worthy: "I can usually tell whether a poet . . . the government's dietary guidelines on the American public--guidelines that the food industry has much sway in creating. Suffice here to say they make it impossible for a child to lunch on a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice. That is what the mother of a North Carolina preschooler pre·school·er
1. A child who is not old enough to attend kindergarten.
2. A child who is enrolled in a preschool.
Noun 1. packed for her daughter one day last January. The meal didn't meet USDA guidelines: one serving of meat, of milk and of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables. So school officials rushed to the rescue with a full cafeteria platter. The do-gooders so upset the child she ended up eating only three chicken nuggets that afternoon, a logical end to a bizarre lunch hour brought about by USDA's unconstitutional nutrition, health, and education programs, again with little connection to agriculture.
* Forest Service (FS)--Added to USDA in 1898, this agency is the department's largest employer. More than $5 billion is budgeted for its discretionary activities in 2012. These tax dollars will "support the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, restore long-leaf pine habitat, improve water quality in priority landscapes, decommission de·com·mis·sion
tr.v. de·com·mis·sioned, de·com·mis·sion·ing, de·com·mis·sions
To withdraw (a ship, for example) from active service. roads, implement travel management plans, and create green jobs." Each of these areas can easily be managed by state governments. Regardless, the U.S. Constitution forbids federal intervention in nature conservancy, water quality management, and the other FS functions mentioned. Notice "agriculture" isn't on this list, because FS is yet another USDA agency with, at best, indirect connection to farming.
* Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)--Here is one umbrella agency that deals directly with farming, but hardly in a positive way. USDA claims FAS works to "improve the competitive position of U.S. agriculture in the global marketplace." The truth is just the opposite. Billions of U.S. tax dollars are spent annually on export subsidies granted by FAS, including the same foreign food assistance programs Eisenhower began. On the domestic front, export subsidies reduce supply and increase both demand and price of commodities. While they lower commodity prices in foreign markets for consumers, farmers in those countries are hit hard. The result is increased protectionism in many overseas nations. Regardless, the Constitution does not authorize the federal government as a marketing outfit, a charity, or an agriculture exporter.
The examples listed here are hardly extreme. There is no agency, office, or mission of USDA that is constitutionally authorized. In fact, the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights specifically forbids such federal interference, reserving unauthorized powers "to the States respectively, or to the people" Regardless, federal agriculture programs continue to expand with each newly updated farm bill. Though Roosevelt's New Deal was reputedly intended only to help Americans through the Great Depression, USDA has quadrupled in size since the Roosevelt administration.
In Abraham Lincoln's final address to Congress, he called his newly created USDA the "people's Department," a nickname with prophetically socialist overtones. In terms of Lincoln's expectations, the department is certainly a success. In terms of basic economics, it spells folly for the nation. It is up to Congress to abolish USDA and restore farming to its oncegreat status in the free market.