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WASHINGTON — On the eve of the 2007 Farm Bill vote in the Senate Agriculture Committee, international agency Oxfam America joined a diverse group of public interest organizations in support of a new vision for a Farm Bill that would deliver real reform for our broken agriculture policy.
The Farm, Ranch, Energy, Stewardship and Health Act of 2007 introduced today by Senate Agriculture Committee Member Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and cosponsored by Senators Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) brings about much needed reform to commodity programs and crop insurance that will serve more farmers more fairly and be responsive to regional and national crises that endanger the continuing success of America’s farmers. Not only is this a better deal for farmers and taxpayers, but it would also align our agricultural programs and our international trade obligations.
“The system is broken, and desperately in need of reform,” said Jim Lyons, Oxfam America’s vice president for policy and communications. “Research shows that our subsidies undercut farmers and rural economies at home and abroad.”
All signs from the Senate Agriculture Committee indicate support for a status quo bill that will keep in place trade distorting commodity subsidies and do little to limit handouts to large corporate farms, according to Oxfam. Most egregious are generous provisions for large cotton producers. A recent study conducted by Dr. Daniel Sumner for Oxfam highlighted the direct connection between subsidies and poverty in West Africa. According to the study, additional income that would result from a meaningful reform of the American cotton program could feed up to a million children for an entire year, or send at least two million children to school.
“American cotton operations fare quite well in the current system, with a mere 7,000 subsidy recipients receiving 55 percent of commodity benefits every year,” said Lyons. “Just last week, the World Trade Organization ruled that we have not done enough to reform our cotton program in a long standing case, it’s good to know at least some Senators are paying attention today.”
Oxfam joins organizations from both sides of the political spectrum, including the Environmental Working Group, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Environmental Defense, the National Urban League, and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
“Oxfam salutes the effort led by Senators Lugar and Lautenberg to re-align our farm programs to honor our international trade obligations—not to mention our responsibility to family farmers here and abroad,” said Lyons. “Oxfam will work to help reform minded senators bring about meaningful change when the legislation is brought to the Senate floor.”
“Investing new money in nutrition, conservation and minority farmer programs is critical but alone is not enough to halt the devastating effects of not reforming our commodity subsidies will have on farmers and rural communities at home and around the globe,” said Lyons about the proposed Senate Agriculture Committee bill. “There’s only a short time left for the Senate to muster the political will to deliver deep and serious reform that that will best serve America and our standing in the world for years to come.“