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Farm Policy Media Summary August 9, 2006

Can the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round talks be revived? What are the ramifications of the collapse of the talks—considered to be a major force in shaping the 2007 Farm Bill? These stories dominate the current U.S. farm policy coverage. American Farmland Trust continues to put forth plausible alternatives to current policy in an effort to achieve AFT’s vision for well-managed, protected farm and ranch land that provides public benefits and a renewed connectedness between the farm community and the rest of America.

Chairman Goodlatte Is for a New Farm Bill

In an interview with E&E Daily (subscription), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said he’s more determined than ever to write a new farm bill because of the demise of the Doha WTO talks. Previously, Goodlatte had been inclined to consider extending the 2002 Farm Bill, but he now feels that it could be “a long time waiting” for a new trade agreement, and said, "I think the impetus is all the greater to take a fresh look.” This past week, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) convened the first in a series of hearings that the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit and Rural Development will hold to see how current conservation programs are working toward environmental gains, in preparation for reauthorization of the conservation title of the 2002 Farm Bill.

A Set-Back for Free Trade

The Cincinnati Post writes that the blame for the current breakdown of the Doha Round trade talks “seems equally apportioned among the major parties—the United States, European Union, Japan, Brazil, India and Australia. They were unable to come to mutual agreement on reducing tariffs and subsidies in their powerful agricultural sectors.” The drawback for the United States, the paper says, lies in the problematic 2002 Farm Bill: “The bill comes up for renewal next year, and absent a Doha farm agreement, there is no pressure on Congress to reform those bloated subsidies.”

Broken Trade Talks—a Kick in the Wallet to Consumers

Reuters reports that trade protectionism costs consumers as much as 1,000 pounds (US $1,850) per citizen, per year, in the United Kingdom. According to their story, Phil Evans at the Bristol Business School believes that countries seeking to clinch a WTO deal “erred by ignoring the relevance of the talks for everyday shoppers.” The talks were instead billed as a means for easing global poverty. Consumers in the United States, Europe and other wealthy nations will be among the big losers from the week’s collapsed talks. “While difficult to quantify,” the article states, “lowering agricultural barriers should boost competition with cheaper imported goods and reduce prices for consumers in developed economies.”

Show a Little Faith and Try a Jump-Start!

London’s The Times reminds readers, “Since the WTO took over from the GATT in 1995, a robust system has existed for resolving trade disputes. Finally, the big players have, through regional or bilateral deals, found other ways to open markets.” The paper goes on to challenge the big players to show a little faith in WTO: “They may realise that they may end up worse off if they refuse to make a last, concerted effort at a cure.” Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, President Bush pledged to jump-start the talks. For a good chronological review of the Doha Round, be sure to read this Times story.

Gone but not Forgotten?

Congressman Larry Combest (R-TX) retired abruptly three years ago. “He’s still working on Congress and keeping a close eye on the farm bill,” writes The Lubbock Avalanche Journal (subscription) in a story updating readers on his whereabouts. The article details his relationship with President Bush, his efforts to author the subsidy-based program in the 2002 bill, and his work “to make sure what he created in the 2002 Farm Bill continues in its present form.” As a Washington, D.C., lobbyist, Combest’s clients include the American Sugar Alliance, the USA Rice Federation, Crop Insurance Professionals Agency and the Minnesota Corn Growers.

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