Farm bill extension

AS THE United States continues to pursue multilateral trade negotiations through the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round, it is imperative that the United States maintains a strong negotiating position for agriculture if it is to ensure a “successful” outcome for the U.S. agricultural sector.

Such an outcome can only be defined by meaningful and measurable market access improvements for U.S. farm products, including rice, that will make up for any commitments to reduce trade-distorting domestic support for U.S. farmers.

It would send absolutely the wrong signal at the wrong time in the midst of these negotiations for the U.S. Congress and the administration to write a new farm bill that would likely reduce the level of support for production agriculture and change the structure of farm payments.

Sens. Jim Talent, R-Mo., and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., introduced a bill that would extend the current farm bill until there is a WTO agreement that is ratified by Congress. Only after that ratification should Congress undertake the task of writing a new farm bill to guide future agricultural policy.

Sens. Talent and Lincoln have taken this step to send a strong signal to our negotiating partners in the WTO that the United States will not unilaterally disarm when it comes to our agriculture sector.

The WTO negotiators missed their deadline for an agreement in December in Hong Kong. They have just missed the April 30 deadline by which “modalities” — the formulas for making reductions in domestic support programs, tariffs, and export subsidies — were to have been agreed to.

There has been no report of any substantial progress in the negotiations, but a new negotiating deadline has been set for the end of July.

It makes perfect sense in this scenario to extend the current farm bill until the WTO Doha Round of negotiations is successfully completed. It is the right policy at the right time for U.S. agriculture.
Paul T. Combs
Chairman, USA Rice Producers' Group

Subsidized landowners

HOW DOES it help young people trying to become farmers when you have the current farm population and, more importantly, the landowner class being subsidized by all other working Americans? (“Iowa farmer, politician could be sincerely wrong, March 31, Delta Farm Press.)

I believe if you eliminate the farm program you would lower land rent and land prices. This would allow the next generation to be more competitive in the markets of land purchase and rent.

I wonder what the American public would say if they knew the real story about farm subsidies going to the richest class of people in America: Farmers and agricultural landowners.
John Bakke
Farmington, Minn.