Preserve farmland at what cost?

A writer in the January 2, 2007 Wichita Eagle laments the loss of farmland to development, particularly residential homebuilding. The writer states that if farmland were preserved, Kansas could become more prosperous.

There are two areas in which I believe this writer is mistaken. First, if the transaction between developer and farmer was voluntary, each is better off than they were before. The developer (and by extension the people he hopes to sell houses to) valued the land more than the farmer did. Otherwise, why would the transaction take place? These voluntary transactions that make both parties better off than before are the basis for the creation of wealth and prosperity.

Second, farmers in Kansas produce so much output that they continually complain of the low prices they receive. Farmers tell us and Congress that if they don’t receive huge subsidies, they will go out of business. In 2005, farmers in Kansas received $1,056,866,760 in subsidy payments. This involuntary transaction reduces the wealth and prosperity of Kansas and the United States.

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