Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Popcorn, Seed Corn, and Fading Memory

Politico today carries a long piece about Senator McCain's opposition to a provision in the farm bill relative to popcorn.  (Haven't checked but it sounds as if it makes popcorn producers eligible for corn crop insurance.) The article treats the provision as an example of an organization getting the legislation written to favor them.

Back in the day, if I remember, which I don't really, seed corn and popcorn were controversial in the context of the target price programs of the early 80's.  Both were produced under contract, which meant the growers didn't really face price risk, which was what the program was supposed to be about.  They also had their own niche market, pretty much independent of the field corn market, so efforts to adjust the production of field corn were irrelevant to popcorn and seed corn.  They did, however, have an argument that the stalks could be used for silage.

Over the years I believe both the seed corn people and the popcorn people got language inserted into the law forcing ASCS/FSA to treat them on the same basis as field corn.  If my memory is right, that means the only thing new is that today the lobbyists are forcing RMA/FCIC to treat them on the same basis.

The logic of the efforts is clear: a group of people who feel relatively strongly about an issue, no organized opposition because groups representing the taxpayers don't understand the issue, no leadership from the Executive because it's such a small issue, a bureaucracy which understands the issue but which works for Congress and is professionally inhibited from voicing opposition, and a legislator who can insert the relevant provision and mouth the words the lobbyist puts in their mouth.

Where's the tea party?


Anonymous said...

Kind of makes you wonder what the lobbyists/growers are after as crop insurance is already available for both seed corn and pop corn separate from field/silage corn.

Bill Harshaw said...

That surprises me--I'd thought the seed/popcorn company would be absorbing the risk. But a quick Google shows I'm wrong, so the company is guaranteeing the price/market, but not weather.

My Google turned up this audit report http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/05001-2-TE.pdf on nonirrigated popcorn,Pima cotton and corn. Interesting.