This will probably one of the very few times I might have something nice to say about Republican obstructionism. ThinkProgress reports (my emphasis):
House Republicans let the five-year farm bill expire at the end of September without a new law to replace the massive measure covering billions of dollars in programs, including food stamps and agriculture subsidies….
I’m against cutting food stamps, but in the unlikely event that this obstructionism results in the end of American agricultural subsidies I will be really glad. Agricultural subsidies are one of the worst possible things a government can do with its money. For the most part, these line the pockets of agribusinesses and cattle barons. Contrary to popular believe, only a minute fraction of agricultural subsidies go to family farmers. The chief effect of these unnecessary subsidies is to distort the food market, mostly by artificially lowering prices. The effect is to give an income to agribusiness that the free market won’t (or can’t). In almost every other circumstance, wingnuts would be screaming “SOCIALISM” until their vocal cords broke. But in this case, we usually end up with bipartisan agreement to squander government money. It should come as no surprise that an overwhelming majority of economists agree that agricultural subsidies should be eliminated.
In many cases, these market distortions skew people’s food choices, especially towards unhealthy foods. Elimination of agricultural subsidies would hence improve public health.
Eliminating agricultural subsidies has an additional benefit. Agriculture is one of the few areas where poor countries have a comparative advantage. Eliminating agricultural subsidies (in all countries, not just the US) would allow farmers in those countries to make more money, causing economic growth and development. This is exactly what foreign aid is supposed to do. Therefore, if agricultural subsidies are eliminated, we will get most if the advantages of giving foreign aid, without any of the costs. Indeed, since eliminating these subsidies would have much of the effect as giving aid, we could even cut foreign aid, therefore saving more money.