In reaction to today's one-month extension of the Farm Bill, Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, made the following statement:
"Today's extension of the current Farm Bill is an encouraging sign that discussions between House, Senate, and Administration negotiators could lead to real reforms in US farm policies. However, the measure of real reform will be in how the final bill reduces trade distorting subsidies and reallocates resources to meet other critical needs.
"At the end of this battle, it would be disheartening to see large scale cotton and rice producers continue to get a free pass at the expense of important gains for nutrition and conservation programs, support for minority farmers, and essentially changes in our food aid programs. Left unchanged, US farm policy will continue to benefit the wealthiest farmers at the expense of America's family farmers and working families.
"Even with record-breaking prices for corn, soybean, and wheat, as well as record-setting agricultural exports, Congress seems intent on maintaining current farm subsidy programs. This flies in the face of economic reality in the US, rising food prices that threaten the lives of millions of people in developing countries, and plain common sense.
"The increasing price of food, in particular, poses an immediate threat to the food security and the livelihoods of millions in the poorest countries. This is a double whammy for those depending on international food assistance. With food prices and transportation costs rising rapidly, and the value of the US dollar declining, the benefits of US food aid are shrinking. Congress could improve the situation if it were willing to shift a percentage of the aid budget to permit the local purchase of food, getting food to the hungry more efficiently and improving the ability of local farmers to meet local food needs and earn a living.
"At a time when the nation is excited about opportunities for change, Congressional leaders seem stuck on the same old programs and policies that benefit wealthy farmers at the expense of family farmers here and abroad. Simple reforms in current farm policy -- still possible as the Farm Bill debate drags on -- could bring about desperately needed changes in trade distorting subsidies, long-overdue support for minority farmers, and increases in conservation and nutrition funding for the people who really need it."