Thursday, April 26, 2007

Is US Farm Policy Hurting African Farmers?

There are about as many opinions on US farm policy as there are kernals of corn in a 10,000 bushell bin. But there are some that standout as I pour through many journals, blogs, etc. One I found today was provacative in thought about what farm subsidies are doing to farmers in Africa.

Terry Steinhour and his wife Phyllis farm about 650 acres in Springfield,
Illinois, the heart of corn-producing country. The Steinhours’ are
well-respected in their central Illinois community, and Terry is active with his
church and the Illinois Farm Bureau. During the last six months, Terry has also
been involved and vocal about reforming US farm policy. “It should address the
needs of family farmers, not industrial-sized farms,” he said. In July of 2006,
Terry’s views on US farm policy began to broaden when he went to West Africa
with Oxfam America, an international development agency. Terry traveled with
four other farmers to Senegal and Mali and met with African farmers and public
officials to discuss the impact American farm policies have on the rest of the
world. They all delivered the same message: “Do something about your country’s
farm subsidies…they’re killing us!”

US farm policy is much more complex than the article points out and for that matter all problems related to farming in Africa are not directly tied to US farm policy. Local political factors weigh heavily into the equation as well in what price an African farmer receives. Addtionally technology, farming practices, etc. have little or nothing to do with US policy. The world today has hundreds of millions of people who live in poverty with little food and serious malnutrition. American agriculture can significantly help reduce this situation through an aggressive US foreign policy that promotes trade and helps feed the world. This more than anything would help US farm policy in providing American farmers with a fair price without government payment assistance.

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