Folk music fans will likely remember “The Farmer Is the Man,” the rather scathing song from the 1880s that described the plight of the farmer:
The farmer is the man, the farmer is the man,
Lives on credit till the fall;
Then they take him by the hand and they lead him from the land,
And the middle man’s the one that gets it all.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes. Today’s headline: “State lawmakers approve $40M in tax breaks for farmers.” In the story: “The measure includes tax credits to benefit companies involved in meat processing, biodiesel, ethanol fuel and urban farms. It also expands government loan programs for farmers.”
So the headline might better have read, “State lawmakers approve benefits for lenders and agribusiness corporations.” Whether actual farmers get any of those benefits is anyone’s guess. And by directing the tax breaks to certain industries, such as biodiesel and ethanol, the state is supporting a monoculture model of agriculture based on massive investment in corn acreage, intensive fertilizing and irrigation, and industrial scale of operation that turns the act of farming into something much closer to factory work.
I’ve written on this song before, but every few months or so its relevance slaps me in the face again.