Comparing Presidents, Farm Subsidies

This post looks at farm subsidies over time. At least I think it does. I’m using line 351 of Office of Management of Budget Table 3.2, “Farm income stabilization.” (I’ve tried finding data on the USDA site – it seems to be designed specifically not to provide data on farm subsidies. I’ve also e-mailed folks from the USDA with no response – I note that to my recollection, this is the first time I’ve ever e-mailed a government agency and not gotten a response in a week.)

Here’s a graph of farm income stabilization payments as a percentage of the budget, and another with farm income stabilization payments as a percent of GDP.

Here are summary tables to match…

(It occurs to me I probably should have left in an additional place after the decimal point on these graphs… running too low on time to correct it right now. Sorry.)

So what do we get out of this? Well, this particular series is not as, um, trendy (to misapply a word) as other series I’ve looked at so far. At this point, I should state straight up – I never paid much attention to agricultural issues, so my conjecture is likely to be flawed. (Hopefully readers will chime in and correct me.) My guess is that some of the spikes in the graph are related to various incarnations of the Freedom to Farm or similar acts. The 1996 Freedom to Farm Act seems to be followed (a year later) by an increase in Farm Income payments as a percent of the budget, and two years later by Farm Income payments as a percent of GDP. I don’t know enough to comment about events during the Reagan admin, though I do recall there was something of a farm crisis and the large payments to farmers were probably related to that.

Note… Republicans (much to my surprise) are not as big into farm subsidies as Dems. If one runs a means test where the null hypothesis is that the Reps and Dems have the same policies on farm subsidies, that null hypothesis is rejected (P-value of less than .07 for both series).

The only other thing I can say about farm subsidies comes courtesy of Reader Dan, who sent me a link to this GAO report showing that not only do a lot of farmers get subsidies, but a lot of them continue to (improperly) receive them long after they’re dead.

Anyway, given that I can’t really add anything, I can only hope you got something from the graphs.