Farm subsidies hurt developing countries, environment

by Caroline Brown

A report released today by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a non-profit research institute, says that

Subsidized agriculture in the developed world is one of the greatest obstacles to economic growth in the developing world.

As the organization's press release says:

According to the NCPA report, subsidies encourage overproduction. Surplus crops are then sold below the cost of production, depressing world prices. As a result, countries with unsubsidized goods are essentially shut out of world markets, devastating their local economies.

The report also blames farm subsidies for a host of environmental ills:

The authors also note that the World Trade Organization recently reported that the overproduction of agricultural products due to subsidies causes significant harm to the environment. Exposure to pesticides and fertilizers, destruction of wildlife habitats, and land degradation all stem from the intensification of agricultural production due to government subsidies.

I promised myself that I would make this news item short and that I wouldn't get preachy. But, unable to control myself, I just want to say that I know a lot of people don't understand why there are violent protests at every meeting of the G8, WTO, WEF, etc. People don't get it because the media can't be bothered to explain it, and they end up thinking that the protestors are troublemaking environmentalists.

If you've ever thought that, then please know that THIS IS WHY they protest (one of many reasons). This is one of the reasons that other countries hate U.S. policies. I'll stop here because what I'm tempted to write next will get me on the spy list…oh wait, I'm already on the spy list. 

So, gotta go….Think I'll go eat me a big ole ear of American-grown corn. There's just so many of them at the grocery store, and they're so cheap!!! [dripping with sarcasm]

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11 Comments to “Farm subsidies hurt developing countries, environment”

  1. Canadian farmers are also heavily subsidized and continue to ask for more govt. (ie taxpayers) money, to keep them going. Yes, times are tough on the farm but they are certainly not the only self-employed people who are hurting financially these days. In their ‘hay-day’ they were making a LOT of money and this should have been the time to look ahead and put some aside for a rainy day, which has arrived. I don’t see why taxpayers should be footing the bill, to keep them afloat, year after year. If a business is not working, you need to look at other alternatives right? The farmers who are getting away from the chemical-laden agri-scene and going organic etc, are doing just fine. I realize that your opposition to subsidies is for other reasons but in the case of a rich country like Canada, the subsidies also have impact , in other respects.

  2. Hi Veggie Guy, all good points. However, I don’t have a problem helping farmers who are having a bad year or are in transition–real farmers, that is. But the (U.S. and maybe Canada too) subsidy system is so broken. In the US, the majority of farm subsidies are mis-named, they should be called “corporate welfare” instead. The US gov’t gives so many “corporate handouts” to big ag companies that the little guys don’t stand a chance. That’s why they’re all either going out of business or the smart ones are turning to local and organic produce. Heaven help them when “big ag” figures out there’s money to be made in organic produce. (They probably just did because Walmart recently announced that it’s going to carry organic produce in its superstores).

    Anyway…I have another post on this in the next few days. I had an email from a former small farmer in the EU who gave me a lot of good counterpoints to think about re: subsidies. Here’s a shocking statistic from my subsequent research: in the U.S., subsidy amount is based on production (quantity) vs. need or size. So it pays to overproduce & glut the market. How is it done in Canada, do you know? In the U.S., what this means is…get this…72% of the $23 billion in farm subsidies went to 10% of the “farmers” who got subsidies. UNBELIEVABLE.

  3. Hi Caroline, Thanks for your reply. Sounds like the same kind of corruption that we have up here, the ‘little guy’ is always getting squeezed out, and not just in farming.
    Personally, I am not in favor of farm subsidies at all, as I said before, other self-employed people don’t get any breaks, they just have to find other ways to make things work and to stay in the black. Just ends up being a game where no one wins.
    We noted that avocado farmers in California were having a lot of problems, competing with farmers from other countries, is that still happening? California avocados are just beginning to show up in the stores again here, they havent been for the past year at least. Would be interesting to see a post on this topic, if you can in the future. Really enjoying your blog, keep up the good work. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. PS Ooopsss….You probably wonder why Veggie Guy is now Veggies,Yarns and Tails??? Joe here, I am sharing the computer this a.m. with Geraldine, my wife, didn’t realize I was on her profile when I wrote the note above. My comments, not hers, just to clarify. Im glad she let me know about your blog, I have a lot of interest in the topics you are covering too. So, for now, Veggie Guy, signing off AGAIN!!!

  5. Even when I lived in California (three years ago now) all the avocados at the markets were from Mexico! Except in SoCal where those people have avocado trees literally in their back yards. I’ll look into what’s going on with avocados these days…sounds like a good post.

  6. Hi Joe, I figured it was you, G. usually signs her name! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Hi Caroline, Will look forward to a post re: avocados and finding out what the situation is now, in the US, in terms of sales. I know the US avocado growers were asking people to boycott Mexican avocados, with a petition.

    Have a hard time believing that any crops grown in Mexico could actually BE organic…their standards tend to be different don’t they? Also didn’t like the fact that the US growers were being squeezed out of the US (and Canadian) markets, just recently finding California avocados (and organic) avail again here…Joe

  8. It is all good and well to say farmers who can’t make a living should not be farming but unlike other business we do not get to set prices. A dentist for instance if he buys a new chair he bills it out to his clients. A farmer who has to buy a new tractor or comply with some new bill will have to foot the entire cost of that. Then when it comes to selling your crop you take what the US says the crop is worth and many times this is below the cost of production. The price is set in the US where farmers are heavily subsidized so who is to say if the playing field was level what farmers would still be in business. If people want to farmers to survive without gov’t assistance then they better be prepared to pay for their food. People will pay all kinds of money for entertainment but they want their food dirt cheap so they have money to spend on entertainment.

  9. Mary I think the answer is local food. Food has turned into just another commodity–to be sold cheaply & that is what consumers expect. But you get what you pay for, in this case a whole host of economic and societal ills. I think farmers (real ones, that is, not big companies posing as farmers) should be subsidized to sell organic food locally. I don’t think there should be subsidies for Southern US farmers to sell rice and cotton to India, though–that’s hurtful.

  10. Hi Caroline, I would like to know the international funds or subsidies giving to the nature lovers who is dedicated to worke in the earth for making the woekd greenish.

  11. Hi Caroline, I would like to know the international funds or subsidies giving to the nature lovers who is dedicated to worke in the earth for making the world greenish.

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