Is U.S. agriculture destined to be an also-ran, following textiles, shoes, automobiles, furniture, and other industries that have seen major chunks of their markets taken away by foreign competitors?
With the cost-price squeeze increasingly pushing American farmers to the wall financially, a predominantly urban population and Congress ever more hostile to federal farm programs, a world trade community that's gunning for U.S. farm subsidies at every turn, and relentless competition from countries that have abundant cheap labor, few regulatory restrictions, and other advantages, will our food and fiber become just more offshore commodities?
Already, Brazil produces more soybeans than the United States, it's the world's low-cost producer of ethanol, and with massive land areas that could be opened to production, it has the potential for significant increases of commodities that could undercut the United States in the marketplace. Other lower cost producer nations dot the globe.
While U.S. farm supports constitute less than 1 percent of federal spending, one would think, from all the carping by critics, that eliminating them would be the salvation of the republic, not to mention doing away with all the hardships our subsidies allegedly cause Third World farmers.
The relatively few billions of dollars spent on farm programs that help to insure food security for this country pale in comparison to a Mideast war that, by the time all the hidden, unbudgeted costs are factored in, is projected to pile up a tab of $1 trillion to $2 trillion. How many schools and highways and medical care programs could have been funded with $1 trillion to $2 trillion?
And while there is much wringing of hands and beating of breasts over farm program expenditures, which continue shrinking, the other 99-plus percent of the federal budget keeps setting all-time records for red ink, making this administration the most financially profligate ever.
Perhaps no government farm program has taken more heat than cotton. From 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times, and most notably, the Environmental Working Group, it seems everyone wants to drive a stake in cotton's heart.
A prime example is the article that appeared in Business 2.0, a magazine in the CNN group owned by Time-Warner. The cover art is a take-off on the 100 percent cotton boll logo, retitled “100% Rotten.” The pull-out blurb on the first page says, “America's cotton subsidy program has morphed into a budget-busting mess so twisted it even sends taxpayer money to the French. Now it threatens to ignite a perilous trade war. Which leads us to a question for the U.S. Congress: Are you out of your cotton-pickin' minds?”
It's basically several thousand words trotting out the same old rich-cotton-farmers-lapping-at-the-government-trough-while-distorting-trade-and-further-impoverishing-poor-farmers-in-Burkina-Faso stuff that's been beaten to death already. With, of course, the usual fairyland solution of do-away-with-cotton-subsidies-and-let-farmers-use-their-land-to-grow-fruits-and-vegetables-and-other-non-subsidized-crops.
The crowning gem of enlightenment is this: “Basically, (U.S.) growers are supported from preplanting through harvest, making cotton essentially a risk-free venture.”
Be sure and show that to your banker when you're trying to convince him to finance your next cotton crop.
You can read the article at http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2005/12/01/8364585/index.htm.