Sunday, November 18, 2007

U.S. cotton lashes back

They say that your viewpoints on free trade coincide with your career choice. A machinist at a Ford factory may not be a huge supporter of open borders, while a money manager may be 100 percent behind the idea.

That claim seems true with Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee from the state of Georgia. He lashed out at a recent editorial in the Washington Post claiming U.S. cotton subsidies have increased U.S. cotton acreage, driving down the world price, which negatively affects African farmers.

A recent press release stated:

“I want to set the record straight relative to one particular issue in the editorial that has been talked about over the last several years that is simply wrong,” said Sen. Chambliss. “This editorial takes on the cotton program in the 2002 farm bill and says that this program has a very negative effect on cotton farmers in the West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali.”

“What has the U.S. actually done from the standpoint of impacting the West African countries? Well, here’s exactly what we’ve done, another fact that’s conveniently left out of this article: the U.S. has engaged in a number of outreach activities with the West African countries since 2004 which are aimed at helping raise their agricultural productivity, spur economic growth, and alleviate hunger and poverty. These efforts have been coordinated by the U.S. cotton industry, with US-AID, the Trade Representative’s office, and the Millennium Challenge. I do not want that to go unnoticed,” Sen. Chambliss said.

Agriculture is big business in Georgia. Between the years 1995 and 2005, the U.S. government doled out $1.4 billion in cotton subsidies to farmers and businesses in the state, according to research by the Environmental Working Group. Total U.S. cotton subsidies for this period amounts to $19.1 billion. In fact, Georgia’s Second Congressional district collected more than $893 million in those ten years, 4.7 percent of total cotton subsidies, making it the fifth highest district in the country. The State’s First Congressional district ranks 13 and the Third Congressional District is 16. Chambliss’s former Congressional district, the Eighth, currently ranks 95th.

Chambliss also pointed out that cotton subsidies are not only felt by farmers, but are distributed throughout society. Instead of merely benefiting 20,000 farmers – as the Post editorial claimed – those economic impacts are felt by people and businesses throughout the agriculture industry, such as ginners, processors, merchants and those who run warehouses.

1 comment:

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