Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes on farm subsidies

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this month joined a number of other national newspapers in extensive and critical reporting on the current farm subsidy system. The headline October 1 was, "How your tax dollars prop up big growers and squeeze the little guy." American Farmland Trust suggests the trend in recent reporting reflects a new mood about national prospects for genuine policy reform.

From the Journal-Constitution:

Farmers from Georgia to California planted millions of acres of cotton last spring knowing their crop will probably sell at a loss this fall.

But they planted anyway, confident that American taxpayers would bail them out with billions of dollars in subsidies. Just as they did last year, and the years before that.

U.S. subsidies for cotton and selected other crops, born in the Great Depression to protect against the occasional bad year, have become a multibillion-dollar entitlement. The program undermines free trade and props up big farmers at the expense of small growers both here and abroad.

At least 30 types of subsidies insulate many of the nation's 2.1 million farms from loss or disaster, a degree of government protection unsurpassed in private industry. Last year the subsidies cost $23 billion, almost all from taxes. Of that, cotton growers collected $3.4 billion.