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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

8/31/2012 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Lobby takes surprise approach during a time of drought, shortages

When was the last time you heard of a lobby or special interest group that spoke out against the Federal Government directly subsidizing it? Hard to believe, but the National Corn Growers Association is now calling for an end to direct farm subsidies. The lobby says now is not the time for the U.S. Federal Government to be spending $5 billion per year directly subsiding corn farmers -- regardless of prices or yields.

Direct farm subsidies in the U.S. total about $10 billion each year, not including price supports or other aid like crop insurance which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost nearly $10 billion per year over the next decade.

Direct farm subsidies in the U.S. total about $10 billion each year, not including price supports or other aid like crop insurance which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost nearly $10 billion per year over the next decade.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/31/2012 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: U.S. agricultural, subsidies, corn lobby, food, Mitt Romney


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "We are really the first commodity organization to come out and oppose direct payments," spokesman Jon Doggett says.

Direct farm subsidies in the U.S. total about $10 billion each year, not including price supports or other aid like crop insurance which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost nearly $10 billion per year over the next decade.

"Direct payments are considered the most controversial [form of subsidy]," Timothy Wise, director of the global development and environment institute at Tufts University says. "Why are we [American tax payers] giving money away when prices are high?"

Longtime critics have said that large industrial farms receive the majority of government handouts, with the top 10 percent of farmers collecting 74 percent of all subsidies between 1995 and 2010, amounting to nearly $166 billion. The bottom 80 percent of recipients collected an average of $587 per year. In contrast, 62 percent of U.S.  farmers did not receive any subsidies.

"We send billions of dollars to these large commercial farms which are highly profitable and highly subsidized," Don Carr, senior adviser to the Environmental Working Group told Al Jazeera news. "Direct payments are tied directly to acreage; the largest farms get the largest subsidies."

Spokesman Doggett with the Corn Growers Association disputes this claim, saying subsidies benefit family farmers. "We want to make sure we have a good stable agriculture that can continue to provide the basic food stuffs or the basic components of our food supply," he said. Dogget argues that federally subsidized insurance payments for farmers are crucial, especially during the drought.

"Ninety percent of crop production is family owned and operated. These are small businesses," he says.

Agricultural subsidies from the U.S. and European Union have been blamed for undermining farmers in the developing world. Many argue that subsidies allow western farmers to sell food in foreign markets below the normal cost of production, which pushes local crops off of shelves, unable to compete.

"Northern agricultural policy has had a tendency to depress prices and promote dumping - exports at below the cost of production - and that undermines farmers in developing countries," Wise says.

Since the U.S. is frequently viewed as being the global bread basket, food is often as a tool for expanding geopolitical clout, U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has called farm subsidies a matter of "national security."

To analysts like Carr, Romney's support for subsidies is ironic. "You can have people talking about the free market in every aspect of the government, except for farm policy," Carr said. "US farm policy has been a bi-partisan pork-barrel boondoggle. Both parties have used it to deliver federal dollars back to their states and districts."

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