I Hate Farm Subsidies

Boll is Opening to Reveal the Cotton
Via @judybaxter on flickr

I just listened to an excellent Planet Money Podcast about cotton, cotton subsidies and a trade war between the US and Brazil. It interviewed Dahlin Hancock an American cotton farmer, as well as Brazilians and WTO people. It reminded me how much I hate American farm subsidies. Here's what I sent:

Thanks so much for the podcast on cotton and cotton subsidies. It was fascinating, and I loved how the story twisted and turned through the WTO process and showed how Brazil eventually found leverage despite the WTO having no power of enforcement. Great stuff.

But here is what I was disappointed not to hear:

* Mr Hancock, why do you need subsidies, and isn't that cheating? I mean, he was complaining about Brazil, but as far as I understand it, the American farmer gets paid extra because he can't otherwise compete with Brazil.

* What about African cotton farmers? It was only after Brazil became powerful and savvy enough to hire American lawyers that it had a chance to fight unfair subsidies. This leaves Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and many other developing countries with no voice. The result of the Brazil v US cotton war (the US now subsidizes Brazilian farmers too) only leaves an increasingly unfair playing field for everyone else. I mean not only do they have to fight already deflated American prices, but now the Brazilian industry has $150 million per year to subsidize itself with.

It seems to me that the result is a loss for the American taxpayer and a loss for developing countries. The only winners are Texan farmers, who should be in other industries (he dropped out of electrician school) but can't handle the extra training required. Is this actually a subsidy of under-education?

What a fascinating but grim story! More like it please!

American farm subsidies seem wrong to me. I love hearing my Grandpa talk about his boyhood days on the farm, but for America, those days are over. America is no longer a country of millions of farmers anymore. America has about as many computer programmers as we do farmers. For Americans, the future is about creativity, strategy, technology. Subsidizing those fields is a long term investment, and it can be done through education.

The only farming that the vast majority of Americans will ever do is in Farmville.

The next chance to kill farm subsidies is in 2012, when the farm bill comes up. How do we do it?

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