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Organic Consumers Association

Informational Video on Subsidies for Biotech and Big Ag

  • By Will and Zuri Allen
    Organic Consumers Association, Feb 2, 2012

Farmers have been subsidized in one form or another since early post revolutionary days. President Washington proposed that Congress create a department of agriculture in 1793, to conduct research to improve farming practices. This was the same year the English Parliament established their department of agriculture. Congress rejected Washington's efforts, largely because southern planters saw no need for such an agency.

In 1862, congress passed, and president Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, known as the Morrill Act. This act granted 160 acres of government land to those who wanted to begin farming or ranching. It also created the Land Grant Act that promoted the development of 59 Colleges of Agriculture and Mechanics in all states. Also begun under this act was the Agricultural Extension Service, which provided technical advice to farmers. While the 1862 act was not as successful as anticipated, more than 367,000 parcels, and 58,700,000 acres were homesteaded by 1890.

The second Morrill Act was passed in 1890 and added 17 new colleges of Agriculture and Mechanics. The 1890 act extended the Agricultural Extension Services to blacks in Confederate states and homesteading into the Oklahoma territory.

In 1932 homesteading was furthered with a massive land redistribution program at the height of the Great Depression. While all of these programs had serious shortcomings, they all represented serious government subsidies designed to support agriculture.

Between the First and Second World Wars, several commodity crops received government subsidies to ensure that in times of natural disaster or war the farmers would produce enough staple crops for the population to survive. In those days, the major subsidized crops were corn, cotton, wheat, oats, sugar, and tobacco.

Our current farm subsidy programs are modern vestiges of earlier government initiatives to provide commodity crops in times of national crisis.  However, as the video below will show, this system is being abused by Big Ag and is contributing terribly to the climate crisis.



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