Thursday, July 10, 2008

More on ACRE

The ACRE program really makes me shudder, and this from farmgate doesn't help. Why? Because FSA had, and I think still has, a general "misaction/misinformation" provision. The idea being if a bureaucrat tells you something wrong and you act on it, or if the bureaucrat does something wrong which harms you, FSA should make you whole.

From a philosophical standpoint, it's interesting. (There's a certain parallel to the FISA debate going on--the bill that just passed the Senate which Obama and Clinton differed on holds the telecoms harmless/gives them immunity from suits for past acts taken in accord with instructions from the executive. To my mind it's much the same philosophy as misaction/misinformation.) Looked at one way, shouldn't the government expect its citizens to be knowledgeable and to look after their own interests? If so, if a bureaucrat misinforms you, why shouldn't we expect you to know better? To be pejorative, should the government be encouraging its citizens to rely on it? (Conservatives/libertarians can do a great riff on this.)

The political reality is that we have the misaction/misinformation law--write your Congressperson with a grievance and one of the first questions the FSA person who handles the correspondence is going to ask is, was there misaction or misinformation? And, in my experience, the agency will often lean towards saying "yes". If the farmer goes out the door confused, it was the FSA person who confused him. (All farmers are smart, just as all children are above average.)

So, under a brand-new program like ACRE we're particularly likely to have confusion both within FSA and in the agricultural community. We're also particularly likely to see people regretting their choice after a year or two and that's when the claim of "you misinformed me" is likely to be made.

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