It's Time for 'Zero for Zero' Farm Subsidies

It's Time for 'Zero for Zero' Farm Subsidies
August 2, 2013

Seton Motley

Seton Motley is the president of Less Government, a DC-based non-profit organization dedicated to... (read full bio)

We are approaching the DC’s sleepy season. Congress will soon adjourn for the  summer. President Barack Obama will take that opportunity to jet off on his  monthly vacation — this time in middle class Martha’s Vineyard. So for a time,  our freedoms and our wallets will be just a little bit safer.

People (should) use downtime to rest, recharge — and reflect on next steps.  On the farm bill, the next steps are — or should be — obvious.

After its first ever failure in the House, and the  House’s subsequent passage of reform-free food-stamp-free subsidies,  we stand in limbo and soon to be  adjourned.

Agricultural markets have been global for decades now, while our policy,  embodied in the farm bill, has remained myopically domestic. This navel-gazing  has resulted in myriad subsidies and short-sighted policies, and a perpetual  back-and-forth between America and other countries doing the exact same  protectionist thing.

So we now have a global farm market where most nations have Tetris-esque barriers to entry. High  protectionist walls, with new pieces falling into place and in the way each  respective legislative session.

So instead of perpetuating the same fifty-plus year failed policy — or adding  to it — we should work to tear down the barriers that have been built.

It’s called zero-for-zero. Where we approach the planet and say “You get rid  of your trade barriers, and we’ll get rid of ours.” In other words, we have zero protectionism — and so does everyone else. Right now, it’s being proposed  for sugar.

“In attempting to reform and improve sugar policy in the United States, … the  zero for zero approach … holds an as yet untried avenue that could possibly  break the stalemate,” writes Mark Hartley in a recent study.

“Consider that there are more than 100 sugar producing countries worldwide,  and there are also basically 100 different sugar policies, each of which  includes various forms of government intervention,” he continues. “[A] free market  approach rewards the best and most efficient business people and not the most  heavily subsidized producer,…[zero for zero] could stabilize domestic and  ultimately world market sugar prices … [Getting] government out of markets  creates free markets, and free markets lead to free and fair markets, and that,  in the final analysis, is where world sugar needs to be.”

There’s beauty in its simplicity. Obviously it will take a bit of  international cooperation to get it off the ground, but as the late, great  Ronald Reagan said, “There are no easy answers — but there  are simple answers.”

Then again, how has the last half century, spent trying to unilaterally  restore a domestic free market in agriculture, gone?

Florida Republican Congressman Ted Yoho has put forward on zero-for-zero a  “Sense of the House” resolution, ”Expressing the sense of  Congress that all direct and indirect subsidies that benefit the production or export of sugar by all major sugar producing and consuming  countries should be eliminated.”

Again, simple. It thus far has thirteen co-sponsors. And it is that rarest  of DC occurrences — bipartisan. Eight other Republicans and five Democrats have  signed on.

Their Congressional colleagues should join them in support of a modernized,  free-market approach. And We the People should let them know they should.

There’s an old joke:

Patient: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”

Doctor: “Don’t do that.”

When it comes to the Farm Bill, we’ve been doing what hurts for fifty-plus years. Let’s not do that anymore. Let’s instead work on something that will  actually work — a global free market.

[First Published by The Daily Caller]

Seton Motley

Seton Motley is the president of Less Government, a DC-based non-profit organization dedicated to... (read full bio)