Saturday, October 22, 2005

Eough of the Farm Subsidies!

France and the U.S. have one thing in common that is very little talked about – both countries have 'large' (or at least larger than other countries) farm communities “that benefit from tens of billions of dollars in handouts each year, allowing their farmers to export inexpensive food to world markets” says the International Herald Tribune.

The hypocrisy of the whole thing lies in the fact that those subsidies and tariff barriers hurth directly the ecconomies of those countries that the Group of Eight industrialized countries (G8) have publicly committed to help (by cutting debt for instance).

Four African ambassadors to the United States who were attending World Food Prize events in Des Moines said Friday that U.S. and European Union farm subsidies make it difficult for African farmers to compete in the world market and increase the amount of money needed for development assistance in Africa.

The United-States has promised to cut its subsidies IF the EU does the same (read here). The problem is that France is unwilling to lower subsidies and import tariffs on farm goods (read here). France is blocking any further negotiations at the WTO even if it is quite isolated in Europe.

Unfortunately just about all French politician have been blocking any change for years, for I think, mostly symbolic and electoral reasons, and for the fear of dire actions on the part of the (far too powerful) farmers’ union, and lobbyists. Even French rising politician Nicolas Sarkozy, the self-proclaimed king of reform, said in an editorial published Thursday in the business newspaper Les Echos that further reductions in farm subsidies were "not acceptable.". The silence of the left, including those opposed to a liberal economy may be explained by their failure to see the contradiction and the hypocrisy of supporting farm subsidies and aid for Africa.

The interesting thing is that this news has not made the headlines in the French papers and has not even been mentioned anywhere in the French evening TV news - through which most people get their news.

It is also worth remembering that as we posted before:

Nearly half of the EU budget (48 billion Euro) of 98 billion Euro is allocated to agricultural spending, and France is the first beneficiary, yet the farmers represent only 2.6% of the working population in France (official data found on the website of the French Ambassy in the U.S.).

Moreover, the European C.A.P. has greatly encouraged corn production by giving more subsidies to cereal farmers which has resulted in a huge increase in water use (and this does not even take into account the other effects of intensive farming such as water pollution).

So to sum it up, the farm subsidies defended by the French leaders result in

- environmental problems in France,

- in making life even more difficult for poor countries,

- in international tension, including within the European Union.

- having most of the European budget spent on farming that could be other wise allocated to other more important spending.

All that for what?

For 2.6% of the population and to keep a dying symbol alive?!



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