U.S. Federal Government Agriculture and/or Food Safety Reform
Agricultural policy reform has been a past debate topic for public school and homeschool students. Food safety policy reform is discussed after agricultural policy.
Public Choice economics explains the dynamics of federal agricultural policies: federal subsidies and policies benefits flow to a few thousand corporate farmers, lobbyists, and federal workers, while high food costs are distributed across millions of consumers.
Here is a 2015 WSJ debate on federal ag. policies: Should Washington End Agriculture Subsidies?
• The Resolution for the 2011-2012 CCNW Team Policy Debate:
Resolved that the United States Federal Government should substantially reform or abolish its policies covered by the Commodities, Nutrition and/or Crop Insurance Titles of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.
Online overheads for two Economic Thinking presentations on this resolution:
Earlier homeschool agriculture policy reform resolutions (2001-2002):
Team Policy – Resolved: That the United States federal government should significantly change its agricultural policy.Lincoln-Douglas – Resolved: That the restriction of economic liberty for the sake of the general welfare is justified in the field of agriculture.
And NFL public school resolutions:
1986-1987, Resolved: That the federal government should implement a comprehensive long-term agricultural policy in the United States.
1956-1957, Resolved: That the federal government should sustain the prices of major agricultural products at not less than 90% of parity.
It is worth considering a major current U.S. agricultural policy is to subsidize the diversion of corn and other food crops to biofuels like ethanol. So, are ethanol subsidies agricultural policy or energy policy or environmental policy or all three? There is now a general consensus that ethanol subsidies are bad for agricultural consumers (they raise food prices), ban for energy policy (growing corn, transporting it, and processing it consumes more energy than produced), costly for drivers and bad for cars (less energy, higher costs, damaging for engines), and bad for the environment (polluting more than alternatives).
So, another fine federal subsidy mess, but kept alive by the concentrated interests who benefit a lot (corn farmers and ethanol processors), and the relative indifference and rational ignorance of consumers who have other things to do in life than try to follow agriculture, energy, and ethanol policy debates.
Here is a Jan. 2016 Cato At Liberty post critical of ethanol subsidies: Iowa Moonshine: The Sordid History of Ethanol Mandates
Here is a Center for Economic Growth article on a recent biofuel policy study:
Biofuel Subsidies: Bad Policies, Bad Examples for Development
Food safety offers a more complicated topic for debaters, but again one that invited students to look at their copy of the Constitution to see under which enumerated federal powers food safety regulatory powers might be found.
Past the Constitutional debate is a practical question about federal expertise and incentives in regard to regulating food safety.
Here is a post on a 2009 AEI panel: Food Safety Regulations: Will More Regulation Make Us Safer?
Here is 2012 AEI article with a history of federal food safety policy and reform proposals: Food Safety: Background, Analysis and Recommendations
Fifteen different federal agencies administer a wide range of laws related to food safety (Johnson2010). Here, the focus is on the roles of the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Other agencies’ roles are considered only briefly.
Debaters can expect federal food safety policies to be as effective and productive as federal education policies. Alternative processes and institutions to secure food safety exist for the same reasons private schools and homeschooling exist.
Government agencies suffer from incentive and information problems that waste money, slow innovation, and hamper alternative food safety systems. With this resolution students will have an opportunity to research the dozens of food safety certification systems that have developed to protect consumers, and to contrast them with top-down state and federal food safety regulations.