Story 2 Web Version

Caitlin Tompkins

ComJour 333

Story 2 Web Version


Debates Over Government Regulation Leave Some Unhappy with Farm Bill


The League of Women Voters invited three speakers to the Gladish Community and Cultural Center to discuss the potential impacts of a free market versus governmental regulation on the agricultural community.


Dr. Joe Guenthner, retired agricultural economics professor; Tory Bye, director of Whitman County Farm Service Agency; and Ben Barstow, Palouse farmer, explained how the 2014 Farm Bill will impact the farming community.   The idea of placing all aspects of agriculture in a free market was a popular topic during the meeting. 

Guenthner shared two philosophies: the free market philosophy and the government regulation philosophy.  The free market philosophy gives individual farms the freedom to run their land based on their specific needs.  If all support programs implemented by the government were abolished, Guenthner said that the agricultural community would be better in the long run.

            Farmers in favor of the government regulation philosophy encourage the use of farm programs and loans.  Bye said the government programs are support tools to help farmers get into business or stay in business.


            Barstow shared his personal experience of how these programs saved his farm.  When Barstow began farming in the 1990s, his household income one year was $22,000.  His direct payment from the government was $27,000.

            “There’s no question in my mind that I wouldn’t be farming today if that program hadn’t been there,” Barstow said.

            Roughly 30 members of the League of Women Voters and the Pullman community attended the meeting.  Many said they were unclear as to what exactly the new bill means for producers, leaving people scratching their heads and searching for answers.  As Barstow puts it, “you can smell the saw dust burning.”

The opinion of Paul Spencer, a retired physicist, blends the teachings of all three speakers. 

            “I am a little less optimistic about the controlled market,” Spencer said. “However, industries proved that the free market doesn’t work too well.   I think a split between good government regulations and a free market would be best.”

Several other topics featured in the farm bill included land conservation policies, meat product labeling of where the animal came from, incentives to grow more of specific crops, and much more.

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law Friday at Michigan State University’s indoor horse arena.



Joe Guenthner


            (208) 885-6056

Tory Bye



Web Source:  I used the links for “Overview of Subsidies,” “Overview of Crop Insurance,” and “USDA and Farm Bill” to gain background information. 


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