What are some of the pros and cons of government subsidies for small farmers?



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    The most signicant benefit of government subsidies for the small farmer is the supplemental income provided, as most small farmers can not compete with large-scale “business” farms. Subsidies allow them to keep their homes and their livelihoods during leaner times. On the other hand, subsidies may also be seen as continuing a lost cause, and preventing a farmer from simply selling failing operation rather than continuing on as a welfare operation. The biggest downside of government subsidies is that they do NOT in fact benefit the small farmer to the degree they should. In 2002 71% of farm subsidies went to the top 10% of beneficiaries, which in most cases were large farms. The top 20% received over a million dollars each, compared to an average of $846 annually received by the bottom 80%. It seems that sums this small would barely keep a small farmer afloat. Another con is the practice of providing subsidies based on amount of production, which can force small farmers to “overproduce”, appling excess pesticides and fertilizer that in turn harm the environment, while creating a surplus that drives prices down that in requires yet more production.

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