"WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush's newfound opposition to the kind of spending on agriculture he once embraced may not be enough to stop it - or to prevent new global trade conflicts as a result.Bread for the World makes a pretty compelling case for the elimination of farm subsidies. These are no longer providing subsistence support for family farmers, but rather are concentrating government payments in the hands of large-scale operators who can do right well without the handouts.
The Bush administration is signaling that it is prepared to veto the $300 billion farm bill that will probably come before the House of Representatives this week. Bush signed similar legislation in 2002, when his Republicans controlled the House, and he will face pressure to do so again with elections approaching next year.
U.S. crop subsidies, which date back to the Great Depression, are among the most popular programs among rural lawmakers. The legislation is backed by a coalition of Midwestern and Southern Republicans, Democrats and farm interests that has beaten back past efforts to limit such aid, including one by Bush just last month.
Despite the president's threats, a veto 'is very, very unlikely to happen,' said Dan Glickman, a former Democratic congressman who was agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton. 'There are a lot of potentially vulnerable Republican members in the House right now. The numbers don't look great for their party anyway, and this is part of their base.'
While most farm-bill spending goes toward food-aid programs for the needy, the crop subsidies are by far the most contentious part. The administration says the legislation will leave the United States vulnerable to challenges at the World Trade Organization by India, Brazil and other countries that say the subsidies give American farmers an unfair advantage."
Just as the support for farm subsidies cuts across political lines, the opposition also cuts across traditional political and social lines.
For me it was the realization that when we can ship our surplus food overseas and sell it at a price below what local farmers need for their families' subsistence, then we need to rethink how we do business.
Surely we can do better.