Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Long Term Response To Tsunami

Hi Everyone,

OK, the immediate response: shock - apathy - disgust - horror - guilt - compassion - self satisfaction is drawing to a conclusion. The world is beginning to turn to long term solutions. My favorite starting place for a debate on the long term response to global poverty and living standards is the Copenhagen Consensus. Check it out!

Tony Blair has begun pushing for debt forgiveness for the stricken countries. Good idea. Blair has been pushing debt forgiveness for the developing countries world wide for a while now and he seems to be taking a page from the Book of Bush here - namely use traumatic events as a justification for actions you've advocated for years before the trauma.

I would add my little pet peeve here too. If we in the developed world want to really help the people of South and South East Asia the best thing we can do is end agricultural subsidies. Here is an article about how agricultural subsidies are distributed in the United States. Rich farmers get most of the subsidies and rice growers (grown in the south) and cotton growers (grown in the south) are the disproportionate beneficiaries of subsidies. Agricultural subsidies are the Republican Party's secret weapon for getting out the rural vote in the South especially. If the GOP is for it, progressive people should seriously consider being against it. Here is what OXFAM says these subsidies are doing to Mexican farmers. Of course, Mexico isn't in South Asia but it has a very similar relationship to trade and the developed world. Ag subsidies are not the exclusive domain of the United States. The EU's system is at least as bad, as is Australia's. This is one of a number of situations where the pro-market approach is actually the most progressive. These subsidies disrupt the market in ways that benefit the rich at the expense of the working poor throughout the world both "North" and "South". They also create incentives for illegal migration as farmers from developing countries are put out of business by unfair trade practices and go "North" looking for work.

So what do the Citizens and friends think about other long term solutions? What do you think of these two?


US West said...

I don't pretend to follow the AG industry up close. But I come from California's Central Valley, which has been called the food basket of the nation. WE grow all sorts of nuts, fruits and veggies. We have many dairies and poultry producers. I now live in another very AG rich region of California. Here we grow everything from lettuce to strawberries to bell peppers. But all of that is threatened.

Valley farmers are selling their AG land to developers as they can make more money doing that than farming. Thus, there are movements here on the Central Coast and in the Valley to start preserving California's Ag land. Added to that, as populations grow, farmers have to compete more and more with developers for water and other resources now in short supply.

What gets me is how little subsidy Calfornia gets. That is because we grow stuff that actually sells. Salinas lettuce does NOT rot in storage while being paid for in subsidies. We pay Mid-West farmers NOT to produce, which is very weird. And it isn't just large cash pay outs in subsidity, we give tax breaks as well.

California's produce is now threatened by increased imports from South America (yes, you all want to eat melon and fresh strawberries in Jan. Where do you think they come from?) So our farmers are trying to innovate by going organic and meeting market needs. Lack of subsidy leads to innovation and higher quality.

So would I be for cutting US subsidies? Yes, Yes, Yes. Corporate farms are the ones getting this money; it isn't the small famly farm that everyone imagines.

Raised By Republicans said...

The family farm died some time in the 1980s largely as a result of the high interest rates of the late 70s and early 80s. I was recently in Minnesota visiting relatives in a farm district about an hour west of Minneapolis. These farms used to be very productive and rich dairy, wheat and corn farms. But now you can tell they have all been bought out by big corporations. The barns are brand new and look like they come from a kit or something but the houses are falling down and abandoned (because no one lives there anymore).

Now, about the myth of California's agricultural bounty... California's agricultural productivity comes from places like the so called "Imperial Valley" west of San Diego which is an off shoot of the Mojave desert for crying out loud! Why are we paying (through subidies and higher prices at the grocery store) to keep farming viable there!?

Without massive state and federal subsidies and water diversion/irrigation projects (which cause environmental disasters like Salton Sea etc), most of the agricultural areas in Central and Southern California would quickly revert to their natural state...desert and semi arid scrubland. The exception would be coastal areas like Salinas. But the Central Valley is a brown and semi-arid land without expensive irrigation projects. The farming interests in those irrigated areas have NEVER paid the full costs of diverting all that water to them (so it is a subsidy). But even talk about putting the water back where it came from and they go balistic or start talking about the amazing productivity of California agriculture etc.

Ranches in the cattle country of the West are the same. Even if they don't get the big cash pay outs that Southern rice and cotton planters get, they get below cost access to federal land and water for grazing etc.

The bottom line here is that mellons (and a lot of other agricultural items) from South America and South Asia are cheaper and just as good. So why not import them? What is the compelling social need for passing costly laws to preserve corporate owned farm land in the Central Valley?

Finally, its not like those corporate farms actually employ any American citizens. They employ migrants (most illegal immigrants) who are more easily exploited by their employers on this side of the border than they would be if the same workers were working on mellon farms back home south of the border.

US West said...

I don't disagree with you in principle. I think subsidies are abused. If we limited them to small farms in bad years, then they would serve their proper purpose.

You make a good point about the hidden subsidy that come from all private use of government land and water. But since the government owns huge amounts of land, I don't begrudge ranchers the opportunity to use it. And since I don't think we are real keen on importing much beef these days considering the dangers, I would say we continue to allow it. We do need to maintain a certain amount of independence in supplying our food or else we end up in a situation like we have in the energy sector.

Water is another issue. California water is scarce and expensive. Taxpayers guarantee Central Valley farms water supple to the tune of $416 million a year, and most of it goes to big Agri-business. Just 10% of the farms get two-thirds of the water, and dozens get $1 million worth of water a year.

That having been said: Allow me to defend my home state a little. Got to:

California Ag represents and important contribution to the overall US economy at relatively little cost to government. We only received 9% of the total amount of subsidies in 2002. Here are some fun facts that might explain why we bother to farm in places requiring irrigation.

* California farmers and ranchers reached $27.8 billion in marketings in 2003 and produced 350 crop and livestock commodities which generated an estimated $100 billion in related economic activity for the state. So you can imagine that no one is keen on cutting off subsidies altogether.

* California is the nation's sole producer (99 percent or more) of a large number of specialty crops: artichokes, Brussels sprouts, almonds, dates, figs, kiwifruit, nectarines, olives, pistachios, dried plums (prunes) and walnuts.

* Fresno County (at the base of the San Joaquin Valley a.k.a the Central Valley), with $4.05 billion in agricultural value, remained the number one county in the nation, followed by Tulare and Monterey. If ranked separately, the value of agricultural commodities in Fresno County would place it ahead of more than half the other states in the nation.

* California is the nation’s leader in agricultural exports and in 2003 shipped more than $7.2 billion in both food and agricultural commodities around the world. It is estimated that 14% of California’s agricultural production is exported

* In 2003, California received $757.7 mil in subsidies ( of which the largest recipient was the Farmer's Rice Coop at nearly $18 mil.
* Nationwide, 10% of the biggest (and often most profitable) subsidized crop producers collected 72 % of all subsidies, averaging $34,424 in annual payments between 1995 and 2003. The bottom 80 %of the recipients saw only $768 on average per year.

* In 2002, California received 9% of the total USDA subsidies while North Dakota received 78%, Iowa got 70%, Nebraska got 65%, and Ohio BTW got 37%. (

Raised By Republicans said...

Yeah, Ohio corporate farms get a lot of tax payer money. Not cool at all. Rice and Cotton get the most money in proportion to the size of crop. Corn and soybeans get a lot less. Ohio probably gets so much because in addition to being on the biggest manufacturing centers in the country, Ohio is also the one of the top agricultural producers (without any irrigation I might add). So in terms of raw volume they get a lot of this dirty money.

I strongly suspect these subisidies are as much a cause of the unusually high rural voter turnout as the Guns Gays and God thing. The Bush administration is flooding rural areas with billions of dollars of tax payer money. Hicks may not like science or intellectuals but they aren't exactly dumb and they know which side of the bread their butter is on.

US West said...

Yep, I agree. Buy the vote, one way or another.

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