Dec 23 2006

Harvesting Cash

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 8:06 PM

African farmers have plenty of burdens. Unpredictable weather. Poor soils and a lack of fertilizer to return nutrients to the earth. Lousy roads and weak ways of storing crops post-harvest. None of these problems are easy to repair, and all of them contribute to the low ranking of African farmers: on world tables, they rank as the poorest, least productive farmers in the world. One reason for this is getting more attention: large subsidies paid to American farmers who export large quanities of some of the crops most prized by Africans, notably corn and cotton. Next year, Congress will debate whether to continue these subsidies which total billions of dollars a year and allow American farmers to sell crops around the world at prices that don’t even cover their growing costs. The effect is to drive down international prices by as much 15 percent on cotton, for instance. African growers, who collectively are the second largest supplier of cotton to world markets, are big losers from American cotton “dumping.” The remedy: get rid of the subsidies.
Until the election in November there seemed little chance of that happening. Republicans have been formidable advocates of maintaining these welfare payments to farmers, who are concentrated in “Red” states. But with Democrats sweeping the elections last month, and gaining control of Congress, there is renewed hope among friends of Africa, that subsidies can be reduced, if not eliminated altogether. To understand the shifting politics around farm subsidies, see a new series from The Washington Post:

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