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Farm Policy Media Summary July 18, 2006

A recent farm policy series in the Washington Post generated a big stir, with the coverage eliciting both praise and rebuttal. It illustrates a growing public discontent with U.S. farm policy in its current form. At the heart of American Farmland Trust’s farm policy campaign is the goal of finding new policy mechanisms that better meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, the land and the public.

Series Highlights Problems With Current U.S. Farm Policy

The Washington Post ran a two-part series on the politics and problems with commodity programs, the result of a nine-month investigation of the nation’s current farm bill. Titled “Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don’t Farm,” and “Growers Reap Benefits Even in Good Years,” the articles and accompanying graphics make a complex subject understandable to the general public. In addition to the articles, an interview was held with writer Dan Morgan. AFT responded to the Post’s editors by pointing out the many possible policy solutions AFT has developed through its farm policy campaign. The series was followed this week with an editorial titled “Cultivating Waste: Massive federal farming entitlements hurt at home” that argued for the need to repair farm policy to capture trade benefits and to fix a “broken, inequitable system at home."

Farm Subsidies: A Plan That’s Fertilizer?

Around the country, other papers joined in with editorials on the current farm payment programs. The Charleston Daily Mail noted that Congress created a system in 1938 to prop up commodity prices to keep American farmers from poverty, a system “famously lucrative for farmers for decades, and just as famously expensive for American taxpayers.” Several examples of the broken farm policy cited by the Washington Post were from Texas, yet the Fort-Worth Star Telegram boldly denounced the programs and questioned whether “this program has gotten a tad out of hand.” The paper called on Congress to take “firm steps to shrink it.”

How Do U.S. Farm Payments Play ‘Round the World?

As the recent WTO talks in Geneva closed without progress, press coverage focused on WTO efforts to provide market access to poor nations, while participating nations each generated coverage defending their negotiating positions. A Los Angeles Times editorial titled “Doha Stalemate” looked at the problems U.S. farm payments cause at world trade talks, and asked, “Who does the U.S. trade delegation represent when it refuses to budge on farm subsidies and market access? Certainly not the American taxpayers and consumers.”

A Farm Bill for the 21st Century

Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura reached out through California Farm Bureau publications to urge readers to be active in the farm bill process to “secure the agricultural investments needed for the future while maintaining a dedication to the industry of today.” Kawamura challenges farmers to seek “innovative approaches in conservation, research and nutrition” that emphasize the long-term prosperity of agriculture and rural communities.

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