My mother's family ran a small to mid-size farm in Illinois for three generations. My parents live on that land now. I am sensitive to the plight of the farmer, BUT...
Why do farmers require protections any more than, say, book retailers? Farming is a vocation this just running a small business; that's all. If you and I opened a bookstore tomorrow and we had too much competitition, would the government owe us subsidies? Or even if the bookstore was in the family for generations, would that change anything? Markets change with technology advances and other changes and either we adapt or we find another livelihood. The fact of the matter is the agricultural market does not need small and even mid-size farms anymore. All we're doing with subsidies are prolonging the inevitable end of the small farm as we know it, while costing taxpayers millions and opening the system up for the kind of abuse that's ever present in our federal bureaucracy.
The argument for the family farm is the same as the argument for the Mom and Pop retailer on the old square. Just as Wal-Mart will shut them down, so to will Archer Daniels Midland inevitably shut down the family farm. This is ok, because we all benefit in the long run.
This is not the only reason to be against subsidies of course. Subsidies are reprehensible because the tax revenues that fund them are in large part extorted from the American taxpayer, legitimatized only by our broken democratic processes. It is past time to stop the madness.
Is it tough to be a farmer? I have no doubt. My job is not all easy street either, but I don't get to feed at the teat of the American taxpayer's ill-gotten trough. So pick a different profession. But stop the madness.