Ontario Agriculture

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Tough Times for Farm Policy Designers.

When I graduated from university with a degree in agricultural economics, I was ready to take on the farm policy world. As a farm kid, I surmised that the government policy wonks at the top just needed a taste of my grassroots perspective and did I mention that I had a freshly printed degree in agricultural economics?

Yes, I was naïve, but I was also willing to pay my dues so I took a job as a policy researcher with a general farm lobby organization. It took two years, but it began to dawn on me that the life of a farm policy designer was not as glamorous as I originally thought. In fact, taking a farm policy gig means accepting the fact that you will please precisely no one. Regardless of how brilliantly you craft a new support program, your boss, the government, will say the program:

• gives too much money to farmers
• is not targeted properly
• has too many loopholes
• has high administration costs
• is not trade neutral
• is outdated even as it is released

On the other hand, farmers and their representative organizations will not be shy in letting you know that the program:

• does not provide enough money for farmers
• is not targeted properly
• is too inflexible
• requires too much paperwork
• is outdated even as it is released

The job is only getting tougher, because traditionally, farm support programs have dealt with commodity price dips and revenue erosion. We currently have volatile swings on the revenue side, but also crazy and fluctuating numbers on the expense side, whether it be feed, fertilizer, fuel, or other.

Twenty years after leaving university, I now know that farm policy design is not for the faint of heart, especially in the current environment. I’m happy to leave the job to others. The reality is, though, that traditional price or revenue support models are not going to be effective if the current environment persists. If you were given the task of designing farm support programs for tomorrow, where would you start? How would your program differ from what we see today?

Click here to join the discussion.

Peter Gredig

This commentary is for informational purposes only. The opinions and comments expressed herein represent the opinions of the author--they do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Farms.com. This commentary is not intended to provide individual advice to anyone. Farms.com will not be liable for any errors or omissions in the information, or for any damages or losses in any way related to this commentary.

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