Does your breakfast bowl of oatmeal cost more and taste worse lately?

If so, don't blame the drought, which is only partly responsible and can't be helped anyway.Instead, blame Congress, which keeps trying to tinker with the economy via subsidies even though it has a poor track record and ought to know better.

At a time when the demand for oats is rising, American-grown oats are in short supply. The shortage, Scripps Howard News Service reports, is driving up prices and causing cereal makers to import inferior-grade oats from South America.

The reason for the shortage? Many farmers who used to grow oats have switched to wheat, corn, and barley. Why the switch? Because Congress heavily subsidized those grains - but not oats.

The subsidies are producing other harmful side-effects, too. American production of soybeans is down so sharply that the U.S. stands to lose the world domination in this crop it has enjoyed since 1982. The same thing goes for sunflower seed production.

The lesson: Policies made by a few bureaucrats are no substitute for the decisions made by myriads of producers and consumers in a free marketplace. Sadly, it's a lesson that Washington keeps refusing to learn.