January 1, 2013

The so-called dairy cliff [“Milk may spill over ‘dairy cliff,’ ” news article, Dec. 28] has really been a dairy hoax. Yes, if the House balks at the Senate’s “fiscal cliff” bill (which includes an extension of the current farm bill), the dreaded price supports and market distortions of the 1949 (and 1938) permanent agriculture law would replace the price supports and market distortions of today. But that is never going to happen.

Surely if the Treasury secretary can fiddle with the nation’s books to ensure that it doesn’t exceed the debt ceiling for a few months, the agriculture secretary could slow-walk to the “dairy cliff.” In reality, the lactose apologists simply want to get a trillion-dollar farm bill through on some spilled milk. That would let the dairy-cliff tail wag the farm-bill cow.

Lawmakers should adopt a farm bill extension that eliminates wasteful direct payments to farmers and rolls back other corporate agriculture subsidies, such as crop insurance. At the same time, they should repeal the permanent farm law from 1938 and 1949. Today, it is only used cynically as a bogeyman to get other bad farm policy adopted.

Steve Ellis, Washington

The writer is vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.