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"Farming has always been--and will always be--an enterprise rife with risk. There needs to be effective risk management strategies. Our argument is that the traditional way is outdated and there are better alternatives to help farmers. Reforms can help both farmers and hungry people."

Bread for the World, 2007 Hunger Report

"[A]nti-poverty groups are planning a lobbying drive on farm reform. Bread for the World, a faith-based alliance that claims to generate half a million constituency contacts with Congress annually, aims to focus half of these on the farm bill next year."

Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post, November 20, 2006

There is a real opportunity in 2007 to make progress both in reforming America's costly and inequitable farm policy and in moving the trading system forward. In addition to free traders, such as Mallaby, and anti-poverty and development groups like Bread for the World and Oxfam, farm groups are also increasingly dissatisfied with current farm policy. More than half of all American farmers, mostly those growing fruits and vegetables, do not receive traditional subsidies, and 70 percent of payments go to just 10 percent of farm operations. Of the $10 billion in payments for specific commodities in 2004, 60 percent went to just two crops--corn ($4.5 billion) and cotton ($1.6 billion). In addition, many environmental groups are concerned about the impact of agriculture on water quality and habitat and, along with farm groups such as the American Farmland Trust, are seeking increased funding in the farm bill for conservation programs.

Sebastian Mallaby rightly notes in his column, Breaking The Trade Deadlock, that a reform-oriented farm bill is needed to break the impasse in the Doha Round of trade negotiations. But progress is also needed in the trade round to put wind in the sails of the domestic reformers. Without that, Bread for the World, Oxfam, the AFT and others lobbying for reform will have to fight the bogus argument that Congress should not give up anything unilaterally in the farm bill, until it sees what comes out of the trade negotiations.

In contrast, the European Union approved its reforms in anticipation of the trade negotiations and is now using that as the platform on which it is negotiating. More important, as the new Bread for the World Hunger Report points out, it is American consumers and taxpayers who pay the biggest price for current farm policy and who would be biggest the beneficiaries from reform. Congress would be serving the needs of the vast majority of its constituents by reforming farm policy regardless of what happens in the round.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.