from experts in the field:
Jeff Flake (R), ( http://flake.house.gov), presently serving his fourth
term in Congress,represents the 6th Congressional District of Arizona.
Should spanking young
children be banned?
OVER THE LAST DECADE, the United States has spent $160 billion
on farm subsidies. In 2005, while farmers nationwide were experiencing
their third year of record income, the federal government spent more
than $20 billion on subsidies. This is taxpayer money. Congress should
refuse to pass any farm bill that doesn’t transition the agriculture payments programs to a more fiscally responsible footing.
Aside from the cost, there are well-known implementation problems associated with
farm subsidy programs. Current programs provide disproportionate benefits to a few at the
expense of many, and the act of farming is not even required to receive farm payments.
According to a recent Washington Post series on farm subsidies, the federal government has
made direct payments of more than $1 billion since 2000 for rice and other crops to individuals
who do no farming whatsoever.
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In addition, U.S. farm policy is an obstacle to free trade. For example, the sugar industry in
the United States represents a sliver of our economy, yet the protectionist program played a pivotal role in Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) negotiations. The administration
tried to accommodate the sugar industry, but the U.S. sugar lobby responded with furious
opposition to CAFTA, putting billions of dollars in additional exports for U.S. agriculture
and other industries at risk.
Too often, the U.S. and other developed countries protect their own agricultural interests by
giving them an artificial competitive edge in the market through subsidies, tariffs or import quotas.
Farmers in developing countries are unable to compete against the subsidized goods. The result is
forgone economic growth in countries that need it and higher prices for consumers everywhere.
Clearly, making significant and meaningful cuts in farm subsidy programs will be an uphill
battle. So many different crops receive subsidies that nearly every member of Congress has
some constituency that will pressure him or her to maintain, or even increase, subsidies.
However, I hope that Congress will look beyond the short-term political anxiety that the
farm bill reauthorization may cause and put the long-term fiscal and economic health of the
country first. C
from experts in the field:
Bob Stallman, a rice and cattle producer from Columbus, Texas,
is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation ( www.fb.org),
the nation’s largest general farm organization.
THE U.S. FARM PROGRAM provides a safety net for America’s farm
families. This public investment in agriculture also supports our rural
communities and provides farmers with a positive role in conserving
Americans enjoy the safest and most affordable food supply in the
world. Citizens on average spend only 10 percent of their annual disposable income on food,
compared to people in other countries, who spend up to 51 percent. And because of government support to help offset massive subsidies and trade barriers in other nations, our farmers
can continue to produce food on U.S. soil, instead of it being outsourced beyond our borders.
Unlike other industries, farmers are price takers, not makers. Largely, they do not dictate
the price they receive at market. Also unlike other industries, farmers are significantly affected
by weather-related conditions. And contrary to media hype and uninformed rhetoric, many
farmers never see their government payments, which instead are sent straight to the bank to
cover loans and other production costs.
Family farms make up American agriculture. Almost 99 percent of all U.S. farms are owned
by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations, and they produce 94 percent of all
U.S. agriculture products sold.
Farmers are the primary caretakers of the land and environment. And with help from
the current farm program, which provides more than $39 billion for conservation programs,
farmers have become exceptional stewards of the land and water.
Rural communities also depend on U.S. agriculture. The agriculture sector not only buys
local grain and other products needed on the farm, it also employs local workers, a total of more
than 24 million Americans, or 17 percent of the entire U.S. workforce.
So, as we develop the 2007 farm bill, let us not forget that agriculture is the backbone of this
country. Not only does it supply jobs and other benefits, such as a cleaner environment, it also
provides peace of mind for all Americans in the knowledge that affordable, safe and abundant
food can be found in their backyard. C
JUNE 2007 The Costco Connection 15
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