Forces Aligning to Reshape Government Ag Support

The Oklahoma medical cannabis industry is booming, so much so that a collection of agricultural associations have asked the State’s cannabis regulator to implement a temporary moratorium on new production and dispensary licenses. A recent article in MJBizDaily cited a letter signed by 4 Oklahoma ag associations (Cattleman’s, Dairy Producer’s, Agricultural Aviation, Soybean) and the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association, which voiced concerns about the impact of the thriving cannabis business. According to the letter, as of September Oklahoma had issued 8,630 cannabis grower permits, outnumbering Oklahoma wheat farms (6,510), pork farms (1,906), soybean farms (1,750), cotton farms (808) and dairy farms (471). The associations cautioned that the cannabis industry was “fundamentally changing rural Oklahoma” and raising issues for water use, waste disposal, and utilities, among others.

It is notable that these traditional ag interests are the beneficiaries of significant government subsidies, some of which are subsidized directly (soybeans, wheat) with others benefitting indirectly through disaster payments and other federal programs. Government-supported ag commodities may find themselves on the politically slippery ground if seeking to avoid competition from a crop that generates tax revenue instead of leaning on it for survival.

Forces Aligning to Reshape Government Ag Support

When Congress begins crafting a new Farm Bill for 2023, it will likely be confronted with a recent report from the U.N. calling for “repurposing” most government support for agriculture. Governments around the world have long provided financial support to their domestic agriculture systems, typically with subsidies to producers and price incentives targeted at specific commodities. The new U.N. report concluded that existing support policies are resulting in unfavorable outcomes, including distorted food pricing, environmental degradation, inefficient markets, and benefits tilted towards big agri-businesses. Of the roughly $540 billion in global ag support each year, about $470 billion (87% of total support) is delivered in the form of producer supports that influence the production of particular subsidized commodities. One of the negative outcomes cited by the report are increases in malnutrition and hunger at the same time as increasing rates of obesity.
In the U.S., federal farm support that began in the 1930s has become a fixture of ag policy and a major driver of farm-level decision-making. Crops that get subsidized are the crops that get planted. And existing farm structure is propped up in lean times too – government aid during the Covid pandemic was estimated to provide nearly 40% of total farm income in 2020. The renewal of the Federal Farm Bill every five years has increasingly drawn the attention of an array of groups and special interests that are not necessarily associated with agriculture. As the U.N. report demonstrates, this trend is bound to continue and pick up momentum. U.S. agricultural interests would be wise to take heed and look for ways to coordinate policies that not only support farming, but also provide wider public benefits such as environmental and health goals.

Cape Law Firm’s Frequently (or Randomly) Asked Questions

Can I get a copyright for my cookie recipe?

It would be difficult to obtain copyright protection for a recipe because they are mostly lists of ingredients. Copyrights are a form of intellectual property that protect original works of authorship, e.g., literature, music, paintings, poems, plays, and the like. Copyright law gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce, display, perform, or prepare derivatives from the original work. However copyrights do not provide protection for processes, ideas, concepts, and information that is considered common property (calendars, measurements, etc.). If the recipe were included in a collection, such as a cookbook with explanations, pictures or stories, then it might qualify. More often, recipes are protected by trade secret – in other words, they are kept secret and that is how they obtain value. Good examples are Colonel Sanders herbs & spices for chicken or the formula for Coke.

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