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Published by: bluetub debate on Aug 25, 2008
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U.S. Farm Subsidies 1The Policy Implications of United States Farm SubsidiesPrepared for the 2008National Debate Topic Selection CommitteeNational Federation of State High School AssociationsZane Schwarzlose and Russell KirksceyBlanco High SchoolBlanco, Texas
U.S. Farm Subsidies 2
The Policy Implications of United States Farm Subsidies
Pollan (2007) observes:To speak of the farm bill's influence on the American food system doesnot begin to describe its full impact—on the environment, on global poverty, evenon immigration. By making it possible for American farmers to sell their cropsabroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the farm bill helpsdetermine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria andtherefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, tomigrate to the cities—or to the United States….And though we don't ordinarily think of the farm bill in these terms, fewpieces of legislation have as profound an impact on the American landscape andenvironment. Americans may tell themselves they don't have a national land-usepolicy, that the market by and large decides what happens on private property inAmerica, but that's not exactly true…. The health of the American soil, the purityof its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no smallpart to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill.Given all this, you would think the farm-bill debate would engage thenation's political passions every five years, but that hasn't been the case. If thequintennial antidrama of the ''farm bill debate'' holds true to form this year, ahandful of farm-state legislators will thrash out the mind-numbing details behindclosed doors, with virtually nobody else, either in Congress or in the media,paying much attention…. This leaves our own representatives free to ignore thefarm bill, to treat it as a parochial piece of legislation affecting a handful of their
U.S. Farm Subsidies 3Midwestern colleagues. Since we aren't paying attention, they pay no politicalprice for trading, or even selling, their farm-bill votes….But there are signs this year will be different. The public-healthcommunity has come to recognize it can't hope to address obesity and diabeteswithout addressing the farm bill. The environmental community recognizes thatas long as we have a farm bill that promotes chemical and feedlot agriculture,clean water will remain a pipe dream. The development community has woken upto the fact that global poverty can't be fought without confronting the ways thefarm bill depresses world crop prices. To change that, people will have to wadeinto the muddy political waters of agricultural policy…. (p. 15)
The debate over United States agricultural policy is one of the most important issues thatAmericans know nothing about. Every time citizens consume food or wear clothes, they areaffected by American farm policy. Although the U.S. has historically enjoyed a thriving foodand fiber industry, the dynamic processes of industrialization and globalization have shrunk theonce-wide world of agriculture.The emblem of American farm policy is its agricultural subsidies. Currently coveringanything from direct payments for corn growers to renewable energy research grants for ethanolengineers, agricultural subsidies place a dollar value on our determined farm policies. However,these methods of assistance are a double-edged sword: subsidies protect industries and developnew markets but also harm other producers and place a burden on taxpayers.Central to the debate on farm subsidies is the role the government should play incontrolling (or manipulating) the free market economy. Deciding agricultural policy is

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