Saturday, July 7, 2007

Confusion about Africa and the Farm Bill

It's come to my attention that some areconfused about what the Farm Bill can do for Africa. The Farm Bill issue is separate from helping Africa with debt relief or foreign financial aid. The Farm Bill CANNOT give money to Africa directly. It's potential for good or harm has to do with how we set up our pricing structure for commodities and how much of them we produce.

Federal subsidy money is only granted to farmers who grow cotton, wheat, soy beans, corn and rice. This encourages farmers to grow these 5 crops specifically. By offsetting the cost of production, the US allows the selling price to be artificially low since it creates a glut of these crops AND it makes the farmers investment in it cheaper than real production cost. Therefore, we export them at prices so cheap Africans can actually buy them and have them shipped across the globe for a cheaper price than just growing it there in Africa. But growing commodities are precisely what many Sub-Saharan Africans are trying to do just to feed their families and survive as they have no manufacturing industry to support them. Our system is beating them to the punch and they can't sell their product in their own countries.

By supporting subsidy reform, we can do things like lessen the amount given to big agri-business and redirect it to programs like Food Stamps or rural development. Then you get a double-whammy of good for the help the hungry here in the States by giving them the money and you enable Africans simply to earn a just and reasonable price for the crops they work hard to grow. This is why we say it is "an issue of justice, not charity."

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