Farm Bill 2007—Title I: Reform Begins Here

posted by Fritz Gutwein

In 2007, the U.S. Congress is expected to reauthorize the farm bill. This piece of legislation is about farms and farmers, but its scope is even broader. The Farm Bill touches everyone in this country (and many outside the US)—everyone who eats, and especially those who struggle to have enough to eat.

Work on this bill will likely take place from now up until the Thanksgiving recess. There will be many high points of activity­—opportunities for us to make our voices heard to our representatives in Washington.

Here at Food & Faith we will be writing about Farm Bill Reform every Tuesday. We hope to bring you the latest in the debate as well as pertinent background information and actions for you to take on behalf of those who are hungry.

Title I, Reform Begins Here

The Farm Bill contains ten titles, or areas, the second largest being Title I, commodities subsidies. (The nutrition title, which contains the food stamp program is the largest.) Reform of the farm bill begins with the reform of our trade distorting commodities subsidies. The direct payments the USDA makes to growers of corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat have many negative effects on the world’s food economy. One is the way they encourage over production and drive down the price of these crops. This allows US crops to be sold overseas at prices below the cost of production. This dumping on the international market puts small producers in Africa and Latin America at a significant disadvantage. In fact, in March of 2005 the WTO upheld a ruling against the US saying that the subsidies we provide to cotton farmers artificially depress the price of cotton and cost Brazilian farmers millions of dollars in sales. Similar disputes regarding our rice and corn subsidies are likely to follow.

By reforming Title I, we can not only get rid of our trade distorting subsidies and raise the income of small producers in the developing world, but we can also change the way we support farmers and people who are hungry in this country by putting more resources in other titles, like rural development, conservation and nutrition.