Global Agriculture and the American Farmer: Opportunities for US Leadership

June 26, 2017


“Due to its size and influence, US farm and food policy has international—even global—impact. Kim Elliott's book is an important examination of how ‘domestic’ policy translates into the lives of people around the world, especially poor farmers and consumers in developing countries. It demonstrates clearly that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially ending poverty and hunger, isn't just for poor countries, but also requires changes in developed countries as well."

—Raymond C. Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America

“Kim Elliott has written an important book. It provides an unflinching and honest examination of the oftentimes contradictory agricultural policies of the United States. She spares few avenues as she explains how US policies towards climate, health, trade, food security, and development often fall short and are undermined by ‘do as I say, not as I do’ policies that run at cross purposes to the goals of those programs. Her book is an uncomfortable look at past and present US agricultural policy, but it also provides an optimistic guide to how the US can provide global leadership in the future.”

—Joseph W. Glauber, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute; former Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture

“It has long been recognized that American farm policy is costly and inefficient and helps large farmers much more than smaller ones. In this work, Kim Elliott shows that these same policies are harmful to the poor, especially poor farmers, in developing countries and suggests ways that harm could be reduced.”

—Anne Krueger, Senior Research Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Senior Fellow, Stanford Center for International Development


The United States is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of a range of agricultural commodities, and the largest provider of foreign assistance, so US policies have big effects on global food security and other global public goods linked to agriculture. But those effects are not always positive, as US support for farmers often comes in forms that distort global markets and ignore negative spillovers for the rest of the world.

In Global Agriculture and the American Farmer, Kimberly Elliott focuses on three policy areas that are particularly damaging for developing countries: traditional agricultural subsidy and trade policies that support the incomes of American farmers at the expense of farmers elsewhere; the biofuels mandate, which in its current form can contribute to market volatility while doing little if anything to mitigate climate change; and weak regulation of antibiotic use in livestock, which contributes to the global spread of drug-resistant super bugs. While noting that broad reforms are needed to fix these problems, Elliott also identifies practical steps that US policymakers could take in the relatively short run to improve farm policies—for American taxpayers and consumers as well as for the poor and vulnerable in developing countries.

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