Origins of the Asparagus Bailout

Bunched asparagus are pictured after the official opening of the Bavarian harvest season on April 14, 2011 in Allersberg, southern Germany.

Photo by DANIEL KARMANN/AFP/GettyImages

One of the things the fiscal cliff bill did was further extend a lot of random regularly extended corporate tax breaks. I’m often seeing this reported without full context, as if the fiscal cliff bill created a lot of new pork. But typically these things have been around for a while. Many folks have picked out the extension of “market loss assistance” for asparagus farmers, for example, but this dates back to the farm bill from the last year of the Bush administration. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) brags about it on her website and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) was talking about fighting for it back in 2007, so I think we can gather than a lot of asparagus is grown in Washington State.


This is said to be needed because American asparagus farmers have been “devastated” by cheap imported Peruvian asparagus.

In general, I’m all for recognizing that people’s economic fortunes can dive due to circumstances beyond their control. That’s why we need stronger Social Security, not benefit cuts. It’s why we need to build a real national healthcare system. It’s why we need to go beyond a narrow “safety net” for the poor and have real social insurance and excellent public services. But trying to do this through targeted bailouts is nuts, and the tendency to offer special business protections to people who happen to be farmers rankles.