It's the Environment, Stupid.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

US farmers speak out over ag subsidies

Cotton farmers from the U.S. took a tour of their counterparts in West Africa and experienced first hand how federal govt subsidies affect cotton producers world wide.

According to a Reuters article via NY Times.com, "The United States is the world’s biggest exporter of cotton and its producers received about $4.2 billion in government subsidies during 2004-05. West Africa’s cotton producers say this depresses world prices and ruins their economies... America’s huge cotton subsidies have repeatedly been a stumbling block in world talks to cut farm tariffs, with the so-called C5 West African countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Senegal — lobbying for a separate deal on cotton."

Oxfam, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) sponsored the tour that the U.S. farmers took of the West African cotton and other types of farms, which according to an Oxfam Press release, is timed to coincide with World Trade Organization (WTO) deadlines of the Doha round of negotiations. One U.S. farmer quoted in the press release says, "'The benefits from reforming trade rules and U.S. agricultural policies could flow both to impoverished African economies and to U.S. farms,' said Jim French, a rancher from Reno County, Kansas and an organizer with Oxfam America. 'Upon returning from this educational journey, I hope that we will have opportunities to communicate our experiences to a broader American audience and to our legislators.'"

I also hope that the word of the farmers will have a little weight with American decision makers in this matter - U.S. agricultural subsidies don't always benefit farmers, and can have many negative externalities, one of which is the price depression of crops that flood the global marketplace, affecting many nations, including those in West Africa.

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