“You can’t turn these cows on and off,” said Bill Kilby, whose family has owned a dairy farm in Cecil County, Md., since 1961. “You cannot stop feeding the cows, you’ve got to take care of them.”
That’s the simple rationale for why the federal government has continuously, since the Great Depression, passed some sort of agricultural-support legislation.
Farmers, unlike computer companies or automakers, can’t ramp up production when demand spikes and they can’t easily decrease their expenses when prices for their products drop. The crops need to be planted and tended to, the animals need to be fed, regardless of what the market is paying for their goods.
The U.S. is currently without a farm bill, a massive legislative package that includes financial support programs for farmers. The last one expired Sept. 30, and has not been renewed by Congress.