Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Making US Agricultural Policy More Efficient, Effective, and Fair

The United States is a major player in global agricultural markets. American farmers account for around 25 percent of world exports of wheat and corn, and are also among the largest producers and exporters of beef, pork, and poultry. This success is partly the result of those farmers having access to abundant land, deep financial markets, and modern technologies. But as I explore in my new book, Global Agriculture and the American Farmer: Opportunities for U.S. Leadership, it is also the result of government policies that distort markets and undermine the provision of global public goods. The poor in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the negative spillovers of these policies.

NASCAR, Race Horses, and Tropical Deforestation? What Congress Could Do (Again) With Our Tax Dollars

I’ll admit that I’m not a Nascar fan, and I only watch horse racing during the Triple Crown (usually only the first two legs). But I am a big baseball fan and I still don’t think that my taxpayer dollars should be used to subsidize the building of fancy new stadiums, any more than they should be used to support race tracks or race horses. But what really disturbs me is that, with almost no scrutiny, my taxpayer dollars and yours might end up contributing to tropical deforestation and climate change.

The Ethanol Link between Food and Energy Prices in Pictures

US government promotion of the ethanol industry is an important element in the recent spikes in corn (and other food) prices, but rising oil and gasoline prices are also key contributors.  This is the punch line of a recent presentation I gave on US biofuel policy, and a point that can be clearly illustrated in just two charts:  the first chart provides a crude summary of key elements of US biofuels policy; the second chart shows trends in ethanol production, corn prices, and crude oil prices all starting to move together in the mid-2000s.

Can We At Least Contain Ethanol’s Damage?

“Corn ethanol is a done deal…. There’s no stopping it.”

Princeton University scholar, Tim Searchinger, on The Grist blog in 2009

In response to this year’s severe drought and surging corn prices, the governors of North Carolina and Arkansas asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the mandate for blending ethanol into gasoline. Governor Perry of Texas filed a similar request during the price spikes of 2008 that the EPA rejected. After that, global debate over the implications of crop-based renewable fuels for food prices and climate change escalated. Some policymakers responded, but only by tinkering around the margins: the US Congress allowed $6 billion in subsidies to expire last year in the face of intense budget pressures, and the European Commission recently proposed halving its mandate for food-based biofuels.