A Self-Sufficient Nation?

Think paring government spending is going to be easy? Consider this:

Demographic changes, the recession and the ever expanding percentage of the population eligible for assistance is creating constituencies opposed to spending restraint. As the article points out:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans blame the U.S. budget deficit on spending too much money on federal programs, according to Gallup poll last year, but when the conversation turns to which programs to cut, the majorities are harder to find. For example, 56% of respondents oppose making significant changes to Social Security or Medicare.

And then there’s a program to assist one of the most productive and, lately, most profitable sectors of the economy:

More farmers than expected applied to put their land in a government program that pays the farmers not to plant crops and not all of the acres could be accommodated, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday.

The USDA accepted 3.9 million new acres into the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, in the latest sign-up period and turned away 600,000 acres.

Interest in the program was so high, a USDA spokesman said, the agency extended the time period to allow farmers to get their applications filed.

A guaranteed return on land is appealing to farmers, especially if the land isn’t well suited for planting crops, said Todd Davis, a senior economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The USDA has about 30 million acres idled under this program at a cost of $1.8 billion per year. The purpose?

“By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams,” according to the USDA. “Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country.”

Which seems like a rather expansive interpretation of the USDA’s brief.

We probably overestimate the degree to which we lag the European social welfare states.

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