Big business, lobbyists, and local cheesemaking

Caerphilly. One of the many cheeses we make and sell locally in southern Utah
Caerphilly. One of the many cheeses we make and sell locally in southern Utah

What do fiscal and economic policy have to do with cheesemaking and local food?  Quite a bit.  First, our money is the basis for exchange.  Without a healthy dollar, our customers can’t buy what we sell.  (Increasingly we trade rather than sell our products.  Yes, we report that on our taxes.)

Fiscal and economic policies also help determine where the money goes.  As small producers, our competition is not other small producers, but giant agribusinesses that get a boost from government subsidies, and often have the ear of Congress when it comes to making food laws.  The same is true of your local organic farmer: he or she is competing at some level with giant farms that receive billions in support from the government – and that spend billions to make sure regulations are written with them in mind.

Here are just a few facts to consider:

* A handful of giant agribusinesses received over $180 billion over the past fifteen years in subsidies for four crops: corn, wheat, cotton, and soy.

* Agribusinesses spent over $137 million last year on lobbyists to influence Congress, andcontributed over $65 million to candidates for federal office.  (It may be no surprise that Monsanto Co spent the most on lobbyists.)

* Fossil fuel subsidies are estimated to be as much as $52 billion per year to ensure that fuel prices remain artificially low so industries can truck mass-produced goods to our local markets.  Our gasoline prices, much as we like to complain, are 33% lower than the world average.

* The energy sector spent $379 million on lobbyists last year, and contributed $139 million to candidates for federal office.

If our government subsidizes a company with millions of dollars, and that company in turn spends millions of dollars on lobbyists and contributions, aren’t we taxpayers paying for them to have an unfair advantage over us?