Fairness in the Fields
A vision for the 2007 Farm Bill
Published: Nov 15, 2006
For far too long, the federal government has tried to use the Farm Bill as an all-purpose policy solution. But the current Farm Bill does very little to help poor farmers, and even less to assist impoverished rural communities. Instead, it gives large government payments, or subsidies, to a small number of large farmers. Most American farmers get little or nothing. Meanwhile, subsidies don't alleviate the biggest problems in rural communities: lack of medical services, poor schools, population loss, and environmental degradation.
While the Farm Bill does little to help poor farmers in the US, it actually harms rural communities around the world. After receiving massive subsidies, US cotton farms produce more than they otherwise would, and sell their surplus at less than the cost of production. These subsidies hurt African cotton farmers by reducing the world price of cotton and shrinking their share of the market. This situation is not only unfair; it violates international rules set by the World Trade Organization.