Who are the real winners from U.S. agricultural policies? It may not be the farmers who receive the billions of dollars in annual farm subsidies.
There is little evidence that farmers as a group are reaping significant gains from current U.S. agricultural subsidy programs, even though they are the direct recipients. Low prices and high costs have left farmers with stagnant or declining net farm incomes. Furthermore, there is little conclusive evidence that the removal of U.S. subsidy payments would significantly reduce production or raise prices, though there is significant disagreement on this point. There is wider agreement that U.S. farm policies contribute significantly to depressed prices for agricultural commodities. Among the beneficiaries of those low prices are the consumers of U.S. grains and oilseeds, among them the concentrated animal feeding operations that now dominate the U.S. livestock industry. These industrial operations get feed that is generally sold at below farmers’ costs of production.