Libertarianism and Farming


farming2Amanda Perkins-January 29, 2017

Henry Kissinger once said, “If you control the food supply, you control the people.” This could not be more true today. Through government regulations, subsidies, and a highly controlled market, the US government controls a large chunk of the world by controlling the food supply.

Libertarianism and Small Farming Operations

Let’s say you run a small farm, which is defined by the USDA as one that grows and sells between $1,000 and $250,000 per year in agricultural products, which can include livestock, eggs/dairy, feed/fuel crops, fruits, vegetables, or any combination thereof. The government currently taxes the land the farmer owns and the money he makes throughout the year in order to pay for regular inspections provided through the USDA and often times, local authorities if someone deems the farming practices unorthodox.

In order to support small farms and their inhabitants, libertarians believe in abolishing the USDA and forcing a free market system. Without intense government regulation over what can be grown, how it can be grown, and how it can be marketed, small farms can take advantage of farm to table, herd sharing (an agreement where consumers pay a farmer a fee for boarding their livestock and caring for the livestock. The consumer then gets the product: milk, eggs, meat at no cost). This free market system would put an end to mono-cropping (practice of planting the same crop season after season on the same land, no crop rotation, no soil regeneration), therefore diversifying the products produced and assisting the soil in regenerating nutrients without forcing farmers to conserve land by threat of fines, imprisonment, and loss of land.

What does this mean for you as a consumer?

  • It means that the products grown will be exactly what the market is demanding. If the consumers want more tomato varieties, the farmers will have to abide by their wishes or lose business.
  • Certain government benefit plans would be cut and passed straight to charitable organizations for management. No more Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan. SNAP currently works with states and faith based agencies to provide a food safety net. Without government support, this program would most likely be passed straight to the community outreach centers, eliminating unnecessary regulations, red tape, and wasteful spending, while allowing the community to support their members in the best ways possible.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, would not have to label themselves as such, but for the transparency of the market, may choose to do so on their own. To mandate companies to produce products in a certain way or label them in a particular fashion would be an act of aggression against the manufacturer by the government. Alternatively, organic products, non-GMOs, and heirloom varieties of food would also have the option to label themselves or leave it to consumers to research their own food sources. But who will protect us from false labeling?! Currently, many third party consumer advocates will test products to verify the information on labels and report it to the public. Watchdog testers are already operating in the food world, so it would not be terribly difficult for these consumer advocates to expand their label library and inform the public with what they need to know independent of government overrule.

How will the Libertarian Party help small farmers?

  • Libertarians want to eliminate the inheritance tax, meaning sons and daughters won’t have to worry about paying the taxes on hundreds of acres of undeveloped farmland. Small farms are known to be land rich, but money poor. This leads to many family farms and homesteads being taken away for back taxes.
  • By eliminating subsidies and price management on cash crops, such as corn and soy, small farmers have just as much chance to sell their products as large factory operations.
  • Maximum crop allotments would be prohibited allowing farmers to sell as much of a product as they want, in whatever quantities suit their buyer, whenever they want.
  • Less government regulation also means that farmers are free to sell products that have been “off limits” for quite some time. Raw dairy, unwashed eggs, and home butchered meats are the perfect example. Currently, in some states, these products are banned because the government finds them unsafe to consume. With consumers steering the market, the individual buyers have the option to choose what suits them and their family’s needs. The production and consumption of these goods will be driven by customers. A bad reputation for unsanitary product conditions will ruin a small farm faster than a government imposed fine.
  • Bringing an end to the Surface Transportation Board, formerly the Interstate Commerce Commission, which has oversight of railroads, trucking companies, pipelines, and every other over land transportation method. They currently regulate rates, construction, and services of the aforementioned modes of transportation. This board is currently exempt from federal, state, and local laws to best provide regulatory services. The STB has a policy of forcing the setting of “reasonable and just rates” instead of encouraging competition which would drive down transportation costs for shipping goods.

Libertarians and Large Scale/Corporate Farming

Corporate farms may have started as family run operations, but their production methods differ greatly and are in direct opposition with libertarian views on business. Deregulating the production of food sources put the power into consumers’ hands, instead of in the hands of Big Agri-Business.

  • Corporate farms have a high input, high output mentality. By growing cash crops continuously, they deplete soil nutrients, which leads to the use of more chemicals, many of which are hard to control. Libertarians have no issue with using chemicals or GMOs in farming, but they do have a problem when those products affect the surrounding land that may not utilize those practices. “Don’t tread on me” also includes land, private business, and mode of production.
  • By discontinuing subsidies for cash crops, the monetary output per acre for Big Ag will plummet. Those that only grow corn and soy will lose revenue unless they can find better ways to market their product.
  • Never fear, the Libertarian Party also has a solution for that! By eliminating ethanol limits in gasoline, corn can be fermented and distilled into oxygenating biomass to produce cleaner burning fuel. Most of the gasoline sold in the United States is based an E10 rating, which means 10% ethanol, 90% gasoline. Corn is currently used heavily in the production of E85 fuels. Corn oil is also used in the biodiesel industry, again burning cleaner and more efficient than traditional fuel. So although corn prices will initially drop due to the elimination of government subsidies, good business practices and marketing have the opportunity to bump the price right back up without any federal assistance.

Although libertarians want to abolish the USDA and EPA, that doesn’t mean there is no concern for public safety or environmental wellness. Libertarians preach individual responsibility which would include making the best food choices for your family and taking care of the land around you. Trusting government to choose what is safe and unsafe is like trusting the government to pick your daily wardrobe. Only you know what’s best for your body. Why should the modes of production for the foods you consume be anyone’s choice but your own?


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The author’s views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the entire Ask A Libertarian Team or its followers.


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