Forcing farmers to promote dairy goes too far
Published: Tuesday, December 11th, 2007
As congressional fights go, this one isn’t on the scale of the annual budget battle that rages for months. But it is important because it shows how far Congress and the rest of the federal government have strayed from the government described in the Constitution. There’s a tug-of-war going on primarily between dairy-producing states and dairy importers over a fee U.S. dairy farmers pay to promote dairy products. The House has already passed a farm bill that would extend the mandatory fees to Alaska and Hawaii, the only two states in which dairy farmers don’t pay the fee. Supporters say the bill would open the way for fees on imports as well. The bill is stalled in the Senate as lawmakers wrestle over whether the fees should be expanded. The problem is that senators are asking the wrong question. The right question is: Why is the government forcing dairy farmers to shell out for a program to promote milk and milk products? If dairy producers, or producers of any product, wish to organize to pool their resources to help sell their products, that’s perfectly fine. But if they force non-members to join or pay to support their cause, they go too far. And if the government gets involved, the concept of limited government is all but gone. It comes down to a question of fairness. Is it fair that a majority join and pay to promote their product while others will enjoy the benefits of such promotions without paying? Probably not. But it’s even worse to coerce nonmembers, especially using the authority of government for the coercion, to pay for something they haven’t agreed to. Such coercion has no role in a free society.
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