Monday, June 4, 2007

Pass the Farm Bill Cut the Subsidies

Life inside the superpower is complicated. Not only are you required to have informed opinons on the Shiites and Sunnis, your carbon footprint, the government of Venezuela but you are also supposed to care about how Paris Hilton will do in prison. And you are not given much time or resources to form these opinions.

You are busy. I know. I'll make it short.

Before this September, Congress must pass the 2007 farm bill which contains a substantial cut in the US farm subsidies. That means a lot to the developing world. And they have no vote inside the US Congress. Only you can do it.

The agricultural subsidies of the North are the main barrier to achieving any sort of fair trade between the North and the South. The talks, called the Doha Round, inside the World Trade Organization, The WTO, have been stalled on this issue since 2001.

The US now spends about $3 billion a year in non-military foreign aid and $25 billion a year in agricultural subsidies. The EU is even worse. One half of the entire EU budget goes to agricultural subsidies. Farmers in the developing world cannot compete with such heavily subsidized crops.

In the US, most of these subsidies go to the very wealthy agro industrial farms, not to Willy Nelson's gang of small farmers.

Many of us, I know, simply hate to agree with President Bush and the Republicans on anything. I know I do. But on this one, they are right. The proposal in the Administration's farm bill will cap subsidies to anyone making more than $200k net per year and will pull out substantial subsidies from wheat, rice, corn, soybean and cotton.

Here on Hispaniola the heavily subsidized American rice comes in cheaper than the home grown rice. Rice is the staple of both the Dominican and the Haitian diet. The Haitian rice production has been all but destroyed since Haiti was forced to cut their tariffs on imported rice in 2004, as a condition for the return of Aristide. This contraband rice is the main product that is traded across the border.

Yes, you might argue that cheaper rice means that more people can eat for less. But, alas, where will they get the money to buy it, since they no longer have work in their own rice fields?

So please. Take a moment. Email your Congressman.

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