Oh, the Farmer and the Legislator Can Be Friends

Cato’s Chris Edwards points us to Minnesota Representative Tim Walz’s rather perverse justification for yet another bloated farm bill:

I rise in opposition to my good friend from Wisconsin’s piece of legislation. It’s well meaning, but I believe it does not address the needs of my district. The people of the First District of Minnesota, I think, can probably lay claim to one of the richest agricultural pieces of land in the entire world . . . I had 14 hearings throughout my district with universal acceptance of making sure the safety net is maintained . . . When I need advice on the farm bill, I go to a couple of good farmers in my district, Kevin Papp, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, and Doug Peterson, president of Minnesota’s Farmers Union. I don’t need to go to the ideologues at the Cato Institute or Club for Growth to know what’s good for rural America.

That’s right! When you want to know whether we should devote billions to paying farmers not to grow anything at all, the best people to ask are… you guessed it—farmers! Because, clearly, they’re going to respond objectively on this matter.
Walz’s speech exemplifies one of the more irritating tics of big-government populism, the romanticizing of anything perceived to be “small-town” or “country,” and thus “authentic”—and therefore beyond criticism. Edwards’ original post, in fact, was titled, “If you’re not a farmer, shut up!” which seem more or less accurate.

Farmers perform a great service to this country, but Walz’s bit about Washington think tanks not knowing “what’s good for rural America” is basically just a ploy designed to play on our ingrained cultural sympathy for farmers and distract people from the fact that the farm industry has become heavily dependent on infusions of taxpayer cash that number in the tens of billions each year.