WTO Talks Falter Despite U.S. Steps in the Right Direction
Two weeks ago when U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman proposed cuts in trade-distorting U.S. commodity supports at WTO talks in Switzerland, press outlets around the world buzzed. Reaction to the U.S. proposal was mixed—with some organizations saying it was nothing more than smoke-and-mirrors, and major commodity groups calling for commensurate increases in market access in return for the cuts. The talks ended with no progress; the United States said the European Union had failed to match its offer to cut agricultural supports, while developing nations in West Africa threatened to block any deals at the upcoming Hong Kong ministerial if the United States doesn’t cut its cotton program payments.
Diverse Voices Seeking Federal Farm Policy Reform
Voices for Change: From world leaders to local farmers, people are speaking out in favor of reforming federal farm policy, which no longer meets the needs of most farmers and ranchers, the land or the public. "Rich countries must open their markets and reduce their agricultural spending," said former World Bank president James Wolfensohn. "As a black farmer, farm bill programs are not helping me, and they were intended to help everyone," said Arkansas farmer Larry Raspberry. And U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns recently said, "Let's move together, and let's eliminate subsidies."
Senate Passes Cuts to Commodity and Conservation Programs
The Senate Agriculture Committee recently passed its plan for trimming more than $3 billion from agriculture programs over the next five years. The reconciliation package, which contained cuts to both commodity and conservation programs, passed in the committee by a margin of 11-to-9. It included a two-year extension of the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program, which helped secure the vote of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the lone Democrat to vote in favor of the bill. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) was the lone Republican opposing the bill. Read more.
California Rancher Embraces Stewardship Programs
"Most farmers and ranchers truly want to be good stewards," says Steve Sinton, owner of an 18,000-acre ranch on the central coast of California and American Farmland Trust's 2005 Steward of the Land. "They want to do things well, not just for now but for the future. It is a challenge to do so, though, when there are policies that limit conservation funding yet support prices for crops in surplus. We need a farm policy that encourages everyone in agriculture to be excellent stewards of their land."
Farm Policy in the News
France moves to stop additional EU farm subsidy cuts: France has called a meeting of European Union foreign ministers to attempt to halt any further offers to cut agricultural subsidies, despite American demands that the EU reduce its support of domestic agriculture further before the United States follows suit.
USDA releases $1.7 billion for conservation programs in 2006: Individual allocations for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program will drop while funding for the Conservation Security Program increases.
Ben & Jerry's launches public campaign to raise farm bill awareness: The popular ice cream maker has launched an advertising campaign to encourage the public to engage in the debate over the 2007 Farm Bill in support of policies that aid small farmers.