Farmers and Welfare

A number of my commenters had much hilarity with my statement that farmers hate welfare.  This isn't a normative statement, but a positive one: they hate welfare.  Is it hypocritical of them to support farm subsidies?  In one sense, no: qualifying for most farm subsidies involve quite a lot of hard, dirty labor.  In another sense, absolutely, and there's a reason I don't discuss the virtues of milk-price supports with my relatives.

The core of the farmer aversion to welfare programs specifically is that old farmer maxim: "If you don't work, you don't eat."  But there's a flip side to that: farmers never starve.  They have lots and lots of other problems, and my grandparents' generation was very poor.  But with land, they eat and keep roofs over their heads.

So there's a certain emotional resistance to the notion that it is necessary to provide food and shelter for able-bodied adults.  And also a deep emotional resistance to going on assistance.  They're much more sympathetic to disability, social security, and other transfers to the less able-bodied.

There's also the fact that one of the things that can make it very hard for a farmer to keep a roof over his head--aside from the debt he is prone to acquire during his more exuberant harvest seasons--is property taxes.  They make near-subsistence farming nearly impossible.

None of this is any particular attempt to justify the rural worldview, or farm subsidies.  It just is.  You can rail against it, but it's no more stupid, incoherent or self-interested than the worldview of any other coherent demographic group I can identify.