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Taking a farmer friendly policy message to Europe

(Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release:

Brussels Belgium, Dec. 9, 2003 -John Dittrich, Senior Policy Analyst of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) and a farmer from Tilden, Neb., is currently on a four nation European tour to present the newly released study, Rethinking U.S. Agriculture Policy: Changing Course to Secure Farmer Livelihoods Worldwide, by the Agriculture Policy Analysis Center (APAC), part of the University of Tennessee.

"Disastrously low prices are plaguing farmers worldwide. A deliberate shift in American agricultural policy in the 1980s and 1990s has paved the way for these depressed crop prices with no mechanism in place to change the situation," explained Dittrich. "Prices declined after 1996 because that year's Farm Bill dropped several traditional crucial safeguards for managing supply and supporting prices. This study explores why the changes in US policy brought about by the 1996 Farm Bill produced declining revenues, demonstrates that the solution to global low prices involves considerably more than just eliminating subsidies and introduces a policy blueprint that would raise crop prices universally, thus contributing to a healthy and vigorous worldwide agricultural industry."

The aim of the tour is to present and discuss the main findings of the cited study with Dittrich, as well as Professor Daniel G. De La Torre Ugarte, Associate Director of APAC and one of the study's co-authors. Another American farmer participating on the tour is Rhonda Perry of the National Family Farm Coalition. The ten-day tour includes meetings and seminars in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and France.

"We are asking the world community to thoughtfully review this research. It concludes that even if the difficult task of negotiating the elimination of global farm subsidies is completed, family-based agriculture will continue to spiral downward as a result of continued low commodity prices," added Dittrich. "This report goes comprehensively to the heart of the ever more contentious trade issues of farm subsidies in developed countries, low world commodity prices, and global poverty. It concludes that farmer-oriented policies and international cooperation are the real solutions."

"U.S. policies heavily influence the fate of farmers well beyond our borders. Therefore, policy addressing the needs of U.S. farmers also should recognize our larger global influence," said De La Torre Ugarte. "We have found conclusive evidence through our analysis that international trade policies have indeed led the way for the global downward spiral of farm prices and farm income. However, we can also predict with a significant degree of accuracy that the elimination of U.S. farm subsidies without real price-enhancing reform of U.S. policy will destroy our farm and rural economy, and---surprisingly---would perpetuate the problems facing farmers in developing counties rather than alleviate them. We offer a blueprint of one example of how U.S. farm policy could be reformed. This is not a farm bill proposal, but an analysis and discussion of one possible solution to the serious problems facing farm families and their communities worldwide."

APAC's analysis and blueprint for discussion includes acreage diversion through short-term conservation uses and longer-term acreage reserves, a farmer-owned food security reserve, and price supports as a replacement for the current and expensive policy of direct government subsidies. It also explores the use of non-tradable energy crops as a viable alternative to short and long-term acreage diversion options. Such reform could also save billions of dollars that could be redirected toward expanded conservation and rural development programs so essential to rural America.

For more information about the study, please contact Larry Mitchell (202) 835-0330, and go to http://www.acga.org , or to http://agpolicy.org/blueprint.html .