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When I was writing my book, Delivering on Doha: Farm Trade and the Poor, I came across a 2004 poll showing that Americans, including in farm states, support subsidies only for small farmers and only in bad years. Last week, another poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland was released showing that attitudes haven’t changed. The reality, as I discussed in my book, is that the top 20 percent of recipients receive 80 percent of all payments. Moreover, this information is easily available on the internet in a database maintained by the Environmental Working Group.
Despite the views of a majority of their constituents, and a major lobbying campaign by many faith-based and development NGOs, including Bread for the World, Congress passed a farm bill last year that increased subsidies for farmers and allowed farm families earning up to $2.5 million to continue receiving payments. President Obama bravely recommended trimming back payments for the largest farm operations and was rebuffed by Congress. Presidential leadership is certainly useful, but progress in cutting farm subsidies depends on those constituents letting their representatives know loudly and clearly that they think those funds would be better spent on schools, roads, and healthcare for all.
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.