Jonathan Dingel, over at Trade Diversion, has found this blog following the 2007 U.S. farm bill: 2007 Farm Bill Blog. The blog is run by Phil Fraas, "a Washington agricultural attorney and veteran of six previous Farm Bills."
The GAO sought to answer three questions in this 65 page report:
(1) the overall status of the Doha Round negotiations now and the progress that had been made prior to and since the breakdown of the talks, (2) the substantive divisions among key WTO members that led to an environment of deadlock and the eventual suspension of the negotiations, and (3) the possible economic and other ramifications if the round is not concluded satisfactorily.
Canadian corn farmers think the U.S. unfairly subsidizes its corn farmers. In early January, Canada requested consultations with the United States on this issue under the WTO's dispute settlement process. The request has implications for the Doha Round, and the upcoming U.S. farm bill.
Rich countries' agricultural trade policies are the battleground on which the future of the WTO's troubled Doha Round will be determined. Subject to widespread criticism, they nonetheless appear to be almost immune to serious reform, and one of their most common defenses is that they protect poor farmers. The authors' findings reject this claim.
The analysis uses detailed data on farm incomes to show that major commodity programs are highly regressive in the United States, and that the only serious losses under trade reform are among large, wealthy farmers in a few heavily protected subsectors. In contrast, analysis using household data from 15 developing countries indicates that reforming rich countries' agricultural trade policies would lift large numbers of developing country farm households out of poverty. In the majority of cases these gains are not outweighed by the poverty-increasing effects of higher food prices among other households.
Agricultural reforms that appear feasible, even under an ambitious Doha Round, achieve only a fraction of the benefits for developing countries that full liberalization promises, but protect U.S. large farms from most of the rigors of adjustment. Finally, the analysis indicates that maximal trade-led poverty reductions occur when developing countries participate more fully in agricultural trade liberalization.
For decades, the fiercely independent fruit and vegetable growers of California, Florida and other states have been the only farmers in America who shunned federal subsidies, delivering produce to the tables of millions of Americans on their own.
But now, in the face of tough new competition primarily from China, even these proud groups are buckling. Produce farmers, their hands newly outstretched, have joined forces for the first time, forming a lobby group intended to pressure politicians over the farm bill to be debated in Congress in January.
Nobody disputes that competitive pressures from abroad are squeezing fruit and vegetable growers, whose garlic, broccoli, lettuce, strawberries and other products are a mainstay of world kitchens. But the issue of whether the United States ought to broaden farm subsidies beyond the commodity crops like corn and cotton, which have historically been protected, is a big flashpoint.
“This is like the tectonic plates of farm policy shifting, because you have a completely new player coming in and demanding money,” said Kenneth A. Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, a research group in Washington that has been critical of farm subsidies, which are mandated by federal laws that date to the Great Depression.
On the other hand:
The farmers are not asking for the kind of direct subsidies that have been accused of distorting trade and hurting developing countries’ agricultural industries. Hoping to avoid a nasty battle with powerful farm-state politicians in the Midwest and Southeast, they are asking instead for money to help market their products at home and overseas, as well as for research and conservation.
Even though Donald R. Matthews put his sprawling new residence in the
heart of rice country, he is no farmer. He is a 67-year-old asphalt
contractor who wanted to build a dream house for his wife of 40 years.
Yet under a federal agriculture program approved by Congress, his
18-acre suburban lot receives about $1,300 in annual "direct payments,"
because years ago the land was used to grow rice.
Matthews is not alone. Nationwide, the federal government has paid at
least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to
individuals who do no farming at all, according to an analysis of
government records by The Washington Post....
The debate over the next U.S. farm bill is beginning. This will have important implications for trade. Improved access by U.S. farmers to foreign markets may depend on our ability to rein in subsidies in this bill.
The Cato Institute' Center for Trade Policy Studies is gearing up for the debate. One of their first steps has been to take on economist Sallie James as a new trade analyst. James will be responsible for analyzing the costs of current U.S. subsidies, both to U.S. citizens and to persons in other countries. She's got the qualifications: