In North Dakota, President Trump said he would "protect small businesses and family farmers here in North Dakota and across the country by ending the death tax" and that would ease the "Tremendous burden for the family farmer, tremendous burden. We are not going to allow the death tax or the inheritance tax or the whatever-you-want-to-call-it to crush the American Dream.”
This led Chris Ingraham at Washington Post, one of many newspapers seeking to be the official opposition to the President, to rightly cite Department of Agriculture statistics showing that impacts on family farms were rare. In 2016, only 153 farms out of 38,328 farm estates paid even a penny in estate taxes.
Forget the politics and the economics of the death tax, that is well-traveled ground. What's jarring about that to the science community is how groups like Organic Consumers Association, an industry front group, or US Right To Know, an attack group created by OCA to harass and intimidate scientists, can claim that they are worried about "factory" farming given these tiny numbers of estate tax payments. (1)
The fact is most farms now are still family owned and they are small. The same Washington Post blog tried to claim a few years ago that farms are gigantic, but they aren't...or they wouldn't primarily have a few family members as shareholders and they would pay a lot more in estate taxes. The way groups opposed to farming spin things, debt is never factored in. That's like declaring your net worth as the value of your house and car and clothes without ever considering any debt involved. If you have all those things and make over $60,000 a year, these same groups declare you as rich because you have $5,000 a month in profit.
What has changed is acreage per farm, but that is more an issue of technology enhancements than larger farming corporations. More acreage can now be efficient also. But actual farms are the same size. And it's no different on the organic side that industry trade groups like Organic Consumers Association have as clients. Actual small farmers are exempt from even paying a fee to claim to be organic, but most of them are the same size as conventional farms on a percentage basis. (2) Because the margins are so much higher, many conventional farms also grow organic to try and boost their income. So are they factory farms in one section but scrappy organic farmers in the other? They're the same farms.
And there are 2.1 million of them, half of which make just $10,000 a year or less. That means half of American farms are run by people who have other jobs in addition to that. Hardly the sign that we have created endemic factory farming.
Activists and their trade groups can spin their economic competitors any way they want, but one thing government knows how to do is find taxes. It never fails. If we were really in an era of "factory" farming, a lot more than 0.4 percent of farm estates would be paying estate taxes. And there would be a low fewer than 2.1 million farms.
(1) And then there are groups like ASPCA and PETA, who understand so little about farming and medical science they suggest going vegan will prevent autism in kids.
Which got just about the reaction you'd expect from the chef community. Especially people in the chef community with autism. They'd rather not have free publicity than let PETA stigmatize them.
(2) Whole Foods has more revenue than Monsanto, and that is without the organic food of Kroger and Walmart. Anyone telling you that is all being done by peasant farmers is selling you something - namely, an ideological placebo about your food.
Hank Campbell began the Science 2.0 movement in 2006 and is now the President of the American Council on Science and Health, a pro-science consumer advocacy group in New York and Washington, DC. He receives no funding from Big Estate Tax.