Our current policy does not benefit the American public, most American farmers or the world’s poorest people as it should. Its commodity-based price subsidies distort prices, encourage overproduction, and leave small farmers in some of the world’s poorest countries unable to compete in agriculture - a critical sector of the global economy for sustainable development and poverty reduction.
The current and past farm bills are part of a flawed system. These laws deal with some important issues: a safety net for our farmers, food stamp and nutrition programs, land conservation programs, renewable energy initiatives, international trade obligations, and numerous other programs that are vital in aiding both rural and urban America, as well as impoverished people worldwide.
But the farm bill’s subsidies do not benefit the majority of America’s farmers, and often hurt farmers overseas. The vast majority of benefits go to a few huge farms and very large, powerful agricultural corporations.
Most farms receive little benefit, and this is why most farmers are struggling. It is also why world poverty is still such a critical issue today. Subsidies, distorted prices, and overproduction are all part of the equation.
People who support the farm bill say that the farmers need it, but what they don’t know is that two-thirds of the money goes to the richest 10 percent of farmers, and almost all of it only goes to crops like corn, cotton and soybeans.
It seems as though the small farmers get the brunt of it, and the wealthy farmers get all the attention. So, where are the environmentalists?
It is very clear that successful farmers support the bill, especially the ones who get subsidies. So, who is against it? Environmentalists. They say it promotes overproduction which means that too much fertilizer and pesticides are being used. As previously mentioned, people in other nations suffer due to the results of current and past farm bills.
But there are signs that the bill will eventually change. The public health community has come to recognize that it can't hope to address obesity and diabetes without addressing the farm bill. The environmental community recognizes that “as long as we have a farm bill that promotes chemical and feedlot agriculture, clean water will remain a pipe dream”. The development community has come to the realization that global poverty can't be fought without confronting the ways the farm bill depresses world crop prices.
by Jen Picariello, Hearts & Minds volunteer