A healthy agricultural sector needs plenty of sunlight. To that, our guest commentators this month would add that it also requires a bright light on farm subsidies. Jack Thurston and Nils Mulvad, the founders of Farmsubsidy.org, are two people who have helped foster greater transparency in agricultural subsidies by pressuring governments in the European Union to publish data on payments and recipients of farm subsidies.
If the United States cut ethanol tariffs and subsidies, prices would drop in the US as imports rise dramatically, according to a new report by Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD).
Asian governments are caught between an ever-increasing demand for cheap energy to fuel development and an unabating rise in global oil prices. A few South-east Asian governments are feeling the financial pain of costly fuel subsidies and are looking elsewhere for energy sources.
The hunt for alternative energy sources has led Asian nations to explore biofuel technology, among others.
Ethanol and other biofuels allow us to use solar energy (collected by plants or even salvaged from trash) instead of fossil fuels just by mixing them with the gasoline and diesel we already use. There is a lot to be said for them, and the government (U.S.) is right to encourage their use.
The business of biofuels is booming. Rarely has a product of agriculture seen its market expand by double-digit growth rates year in and year out. But that is exactly what is happening as a result of the phenomenal demand for alternatives to petroleum-derived gasoline and diesel: respectively, bio-ethanol and biodiesel.
WTO World Trade Report on Subsidies
On July 24 - the day the G6 talks broke down at the World Trade Organization (WTO), leading to the suspension of the Doha Round - the WTO Secretariat released the 2006 World Trade Report. This year's report focuses on subsidies. Readers will find this to be one of the most comprehensive surveys of the subsidy literature, and data, written to date.
Attacking subsidies, tax breaks, and regulations that favor particular industries at the expense of the general good is a venerable tradition in the United States, practiced by pundits on both sides of the political divide. "Progressives" tend to focus on the distributional and environmental consequences of subsidies, while fiscal conservatives and libertarians deride subsidies for the burden they place on taxpayers and the market distortions they create.
Two recent articles from the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, reveal the speed at which subsidies are driving the production of ethanol in the US, and the environmental costs that are quickly becoming apparent. The US, like many other countries, has recently mandated minimum levels of ethanol as a fuel additive. "Suddenly, so many new ethanol plants are planned in (corn-growing) Minnesota that a once-unthinkable debate has begun: Will there be enough corn to go around?" writes Tom Webb.
Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, takes aim at the "myth that conservatives favor the market over government intervention" in his new book The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer. Bill Gates, doctors and corporate agricultural producers all receive a hit.