Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The bill

On NPR, an excellent item on the new US farm bill. Why is it important to us? Because it is a bill of global importance: its value over 5 years is of $290 billions. Compare this to say, the accumulated public debt of Lebanon ($40 billions) or the price paid to Abou Mazen for Palestine during this week's Paris meeting ($7.3 billions), and you will have an idea of the enormity of the bill and of the distortion it will causes to the world markets.

"The Senate begins voting Tuesday on amendments to a new farm bill, which includes billions of dollars in subsidies for farmers and will set the country's agriculture policy for the next five years. Robert Reich, former labor secretary, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) discuss why the federal government subsidizes farming.

In late July, the House passed its reauthorized version of the bill — a massive, $290 billion spending plan that would keep existing agricultural subsidies in place through 2012, while also adding new ones: for growers of specialty crops, the settlement of discrimination suits, and an expansion of the food stamp program, among other things."

Bill breakdown:

Crop subsidies: between $10 and $20 billions A YEAR.
Qualifying for payment: anyone who owns land qualifies for payment, even if they make $millions per year (this is mad)
Conservation programs: $ 3 billions per year
Food Stamps and Nutritional Programs

and of course
International Food Aid

Here's what the article has to say about international food aid:

"In a Nutshell: The bill authorizes the Food for Peace program, under which the government buys food commodities in the U.S., turns them over to private aid organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, and pays to ship the food to countries where it's needed. The U.S. spends nearly $1 billion each year on Food for Peace.

Supporters Say: The program is a humanitarian success story. The U.S. is the world's largest donor of food, and Food for Peace shipments have kept people from starving. That's because of political support from farmers, shippers and aid organizations, all of whom benefit.

Critics Contend: The program wastes much of its money. Under current rules, food must be bought in the U.S. and shipped abroad, even though studies show that, in many cases, the food would be cheaper and get to its destination much more quickly if the U.S. bought it closer to where it's needed. In some cases, private aid groups sell the food in foreign markets to raise cash. Critics say that's terribly inefficient, compared with simply giving aid organizations cash in the first place."

(Thanks D.)

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