Meanwhile, back on the farm …

Meanwhile, back on the farm …

There is a perverse dichotomy playing out in Western Pennsylvania’s agricultural community as the Trump administration’s tariff debate plays out.

Nationwide, farmers would be in line for a federal (taxpayer) bailout of $15 billion to counter retaliatory tariffs from China. That’s on top of a previous $12 billion bailout package. Which, in the Tribune-Review, prompted this response from Joel Rotz, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau:

“We traditionally stand opposed to anything that gets in the way of the free market,” he said.  “There is understanding and empathy for what the president is trying to accomplish. Farmers are trying to be patient, but their patience is wearing thin.”

Well, slap our faces silly with a fresh-cut slab of fatback. Or better yet, conk us on the ol’ noggin with a giant wheel of cheese. After all, these are among the same Pennsylvania farmers accepting state taxpayer handouts to, in one case, build a creamery to make cheese. And it’s no small chunk of public cheese.

Milk consumption has tanked. Prior government “supports” encouraged continued over-production. Over-production perpetuates glut which begets recidivist pleas for “supports.” And as with cheese, as with pork or a farm commodity of your choosing.

Detect a vicious cycle here?

It’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to bail out this kind of nonsense. The milk market is drying up? Want to make cheese instead? Go for it! But that risk, and that capital investment, should not be borne by tax dollars.

Refreshingly, the Trib found one local farmer who appears to understand the issue — Hempfield produce farmer Joel Milowicki. He told the Trib that depressed prices can’t be blamed only on the impact of tariffs; they’re also the result of overproduction and oversupply.

“The American farmer is his own worst enemy, because they’re always trying to produce more,” he said. “When they over-produce … it’s really hard to keep the price up.”

And Bingo was his name, oh… .

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).