US farm subsidies have negative effects
Regarding your Nov. 1 editorial, "Farmers deserve better": As an agricultural economist, I support the Lugar-Lautenberg alternative farm bill. It is time to end wasteful farm subsidies. The majority of subsidies go to corporate agribusiness executives. They buy supplies from other corporations, not from small businesses in rural areas.
Small, family-owned farms get no benefit from the subsidies aside from the incidental benefit of government money flowing through their rural area. These Depression-era subsidies punish small farmers. The government treats these farmers as third-class citizens. It is only agribusiness executives who thrive on government agriwelfare.
Farmers and taxpayers deserve better.
In response to your Nov. 1 editorial on the farm bill: The editorial is right on target. We are a true family farm, with only three people. The younger would-be farmers would agree with your points.
These older laws have become obscene in their effects. Even the younger agricultural agents are disillusioned with handing out the lion's share of federal grants to already superrich corporations. And only a trickle, if anything, goes to small or new young farmers.
Not even mentioned was the global effect of subsidized cotton farming and how that helps wipe out already impoverished third-world farm families.
Captain Cook, Hawaii
Don't put all eggs into corn ethanol
Regarding your Oct. 23 editorial, "Halt the gold rush to corn fuel": While ethanol can play a role in diversifying America's energy needs, it's imperative that we take a step back and not blindly follow the proponents who merely want to throw all our eggs into the ethanol basket.
The important National Research Council's report on ethanol's effect on our water supply could not have come at a more sobering time – when much of the country is experiencing serious and alarming water shortages. And the Renewable Fuel Association – ethanol's mouthpiece in Washington – promotes building an infrastructure quickly that, in my opinion, could all too easily parallel the recent housing boom. We all know where that's gone. As a rancher, don't get me started on how much more my corn feed costs every day.
Ethanol is important, but we can't ship it safely and it sucks up precious natural resources. We need to tread smartly, look for the best solutions, and design a strategy that over time will benefit all Americans, not merely a precious few.
Regarding your Oct. 23 editorial on corn-based ethanol: As a college senior in crop sciences at the University of Illinois and a future plant breeder, I realize that farmers may be loving the high demand for corn and the subsequent high prices of other crops being pushed out for corn, but this is not sustainable. Researchers at the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois are looking at butanol, a more efficient alcohol, while professors within the Department of Crop Sciences are looking at other alternatives, including miscanthus, switch grass, and even sorghum, which is more drought-tolerant than corn.
Customer service can be motivated by competition, not fees
In response to Donald J. Boudreaux's Nov. 2 Opinion piece, " 'Your call is very important to us...' ": Mr. Boudreaux thinks that introducing a method of paying to reduce our wait times during customer service calls would be a good idea.
But wouldn't that give companies incentive to further reduce the number of people in their call centers? Thereby making it close to impossible to get "free" customer service. And after you reach the point where all customer service is fee-based (some of it already is – talked to Microsoft lately?), wouldn't it make sense to drop the quality of products to generate more customer-service calls?
Sorry, but the real solution is to bring back competition. Business sectors dominated by one, two, or three companies have no real competition. Therefore, they have little incentive to provide superior products or customer service.
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