Subsidizing urban farmers’ ‘passions’?

Subsidizing urban farmers’ ‘passions’?

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, through its Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Program, is handing out $500,000 to, as the Post-Gazette reports it, “increase market opportunities for urban farmers.”

The real question is: Why?

As state Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding put it in a statement:

“Urban agriculture is about more than just growing food; it’s about growing communities. It’s about bringing people together over a shared purpose and passion.

“The targeted investments we are making through the urban agriculture grant program will only further strengthen those connections in tangible and meaningful ways.”

The question remains: Why?

Per the P-G story, two types of grants can be awarded: 

There are “microgrants” of up to $2,500 that can be used for one-time projects or a single applicant.

Then there are “collaboration grants” of up to $50,000 that, according to Ag officials, “demonstrate cooperative or regional efforts which share resources, aggregate agricultural products or producers, promote the sharing of resources among agricultural entities, and support community development.”

But why should that be a function of “The State,” underwritten by taxpayers? Clearly, it should not be.

“Urban farmers” somehow can’t come together “over a shared purpose and passion” on their own?

What, social media platforms have banned such groups? It now takes government – larded with a half-million dollars of public money – to fan the flames of urban farmers’ mutual passions?

“Urban farmers” should pay for their own amatory agricultural endeavors.

We noted herein last week the latest round of outrageous public subsidies to Qatar Airways’ cargo service at Pittsburgh International Airport.

You’ll recall in a prior contract, the Allegheny County Airport Authority incentivized Qatar’s failure. The new deal subsidizes success. Consider it a distinction without a difference given that by, any other name, it’s still corporate wealthfare.

Jake Haulk, president-emeritus of the Allegheny Institute and a senior advisor to the public policy think tank, has a few thoughts on the latest marketplace perversion.

First, Haulk, a Ph.D. economist, reminds that “subsidizing Qatar air freight is unfair to U.S. carriers who compete for business.”

“Then, too,” he added, “(Airport Authority CEO Christina) Cassotis’ comment about (Qatar) needing a partner with skin in the game is ludicrous.

“Qatar should be able to estimate the amount of revenue it can generate by starting service at Pittsburgh International. If it cannot, it should not be here.”

Further, says Haulk, Qatar can offer “cut-rate prices to create business if need be to get market share. It is not as though freight would not find transportation without it,” he adds.

That said, however, “Why should shippers who use Qatar get the lower prices the subsidy permits, especially if it costs other carriers business?”

Sound public policy deserves far better.

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