or, “Why the crazy libertarians who want the Feds to mind their own business might have a point.”
In the United States, farmers who grow commodity crops (soy, corn, wheat, rice, and cotton) are given subsidies for their land. If they later convert the land for the planting of fruits and vegetables, they are heavily penalised: not only do they lose the subsidy for that acreage, they are penalised the market value of the crops grown on that land. A small farmer in Minnesota described the problem:
In my case, that meant I paid my landlords $8,771 — for one season alone! … The federal farm program is making it next to impossible for farmers to rent land to me to grow fresh organic vegetables. Why? Because national fruit and vegetable growers based in California, Florida and Texas fear competition from regional producers like myself. Through their control of Congressional delegations from those states, they have been able to virtually monopolize the country’s fresh produce markets.
The Founders, in their wisdom, devised a system of limited federal power, which allows less-populous states and regions to retain their autonomy. The twentieth century’s massive centralisation of power in Congress has allowed those with access and power – more populated states, wealthy lobbyists – to control a greater portion of the country’s lawmaking. A law made on the federal level is hardly equivalent to the same one made on the state level: in the latter scenario, voters may organise grassroots campaigns, contact their representatives, and ensure that the legislation is tailored to the interests and needs of their state.
The decline of federalism correlates with a decline in autonomy and an increase in rent-seeking and special interest legislation. There is no rational reason why California farmers ought to be able to control Minnesota farms, even via the indirect mechanism of Congressional machinations. As the left’s oxes – environmentalism, organic produce, the small competitors of Big Business – are gored, perhaps liberals will understand that federalism is a necessary component of liberty.