A Fair Farm Bill for the World
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy | March 2007Part of a series on the United States Farm Bill
© 2007 Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Every five to seven years, the U.S. Congress writes a new farm bill that sets policy for agriculture subsidies, food aid, market competition and conservation. U.S. farm policy has come under extensive scrutiny from abroad in recent years. Trade negotiators point to distortions in world markets created by the Farm Bill. They identify billions of dollars in farm subsidies, along with the U.S. policy of pressuring other countries to lower their tariffs, as the primary cause of export dumping. Weak enforcement of U.S. antitrust law against oligopolistic multinational agribusinesses headquartered in the U. S. has accelerated concentration in global agriculture markets, often to the detriment of farmers. Health experts and environmentalists criticize the export of U.S. food habits and the food system those habits depend on.
In 2007, the World Trade Organization is scheduled to complete the Doha Round of negotiations while the U.S. will write a new Farm Bill. These two events were supposed to converge and complement each other. But with the collapse of the Doha talks and an electoral party change in Congress, the Farm Bill will likely be written more to reflect budget constraints and a domestic political calculus. As the Farm Bill debate begins in earnest, there is an opportunity to reflect on ways to improve U.S. farm policy in support of small farmers, rural development and livelihoods around the world. Specific attention is needed on how the Farm Bill directly affects trade, subsidies, dumping, food aid, market concentration and public health.
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