Monday, May 01, 2006

A Bureaucrat's Ambivalence--Agricultural Disasters

USDA announced that "sign-up begins May 17, 2006, for four crop and livestock assistance programs providing aid to producers affected by the destructive 2005 hurricanes. These programs are funded by $250 million in Section 32 funds authorized immediately following these destructive storms."

This is separate from the billions for disaster included in the supplemental appropriation bill now under consideration in Congress (HR4939). A bunch of people have criticized the provisions, including the Secretary of Agriculture.

It's a topic that causes me much ambivalence. I was a part, a big part I think, of USDA's implementation of early ad hoc disaster programs during the 1980's. I suspect there's still bits and pieces of the software programs and system designs incorporated in USDA's implementation of the current programs (bureaucrats and programmers like to re-use the old). And the bureaucratic systems are like the field of dreams--"build it and they will come". If bureaucrats can build systems to get money in farmers pockets reasonably efficiently, politicians will come up with programs to authorize such payments.

When I remember my father and uncle, and the pain caused by bad weather, disaster programs seem halfway justified. When my memory fades, the programs seem excessive.

No comments: