...promote trade and efficiency while also boosting agricultural production and reducing the vulnerability of the poorest around the world.Unfortunately, U.S. agricultural policies, like those in Europe, continue to cater to special interests in ways that make the problem worse. Despite record high food prices, the 2008 U.S. Farm Bill, expected to pass Congress soon, would maintain a system that transfers billions of dollars annually to the largest farm operations. Roughly 70 percent of subsidy payments go to just 10 percent of the largest recipients and one version of the farm bill would allow farmers with incomes as high as $1 million to continue receiving subsidies. And this is touted as a "reform" measure because it lowers the income cap from the current $2.4 million (see the Environmental Working Group's Farm Subsidy Database). If that were not enough, despite the current global food crisis, the farm bill retains an additional subsidy to U.S. shipowners, as well as farmers, by requiring that U.S. food aid be purchased in the United States, packaged here, and much of it shipped to where it is needed on U.S.-owned ships. That means that roughly half of the already-inadequate U.S. food aid budget goes for distribution and transportation, rather than to feed hungry people in poor countries. Ensuring that food supplies are adequate and that poor people around the world can meet their basic nutrition needs is a critical problem that governments and international organizations around the world clearly need to address -- in both the long-term as well immediately. Replicating the distorting U.S. and European policies that transfer billions in taxpayer and consumer dollars to a handful of farmers in hopes that a little bit will trickle down to hungry people is not the way to go.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.