Friday, July 29, 2005

Rock Star U turn on ag. subsidies.

After years of following Neil Young and Willie Nelson and singing for an incoherent, subsidies-based agricultural system, rock stars are now helping Oxfam fight against farm subsidies. (So says the NYT right here.)

Oxfam is in this fight because farm subsidies in the industrial world hurt third world farmers, because US farmers dump cheap products in developing world markets. There are other reasons to be opposed to ag subsidies as well. The Environmental Working Group has been keeping track of who gets farm subsidies. All of their information up to 2003 is available here. Bottom line: the top 10% of farmers received 72% of the subsidies. A disproportionate amount of aid goes to farmers in the district of Larry Combest (R-Texas), chair of the house ag committee.

Combest's district includes my former home, Lubbock, TX. The lion's share of these are cotton subsidies to support a suicidal farming system dependent on heavy irrigation and other inputs. As I understand it, the soil there has about 20 years left before it can't even support subsidized agriculture. The fact is, you shouldn't be growing cotton in Lubbock. People shouldn't even be living there. It is not really habitable land.

An easy policy that any liberal could get behind is to tie subsidies to environmentally sound behavior. That is already what Europe and Japan do. This should satisfy Oxfam as well, since export based ag is rarely environmentally sustainable. Libertarians will push to eliminate subsidies altogether, and I would settle for that.

No comments: