The original version of this article, by Tate Watkins, appeared on the blog Short Sentences
The USDA routinely disburses $10 billion to $30 billion a year in farm subsidies. President Obama has allocated $47 billion for the State Department and USAID for the next fiscal year (not including proposed expenditures for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan).*
Why does the U.S. simultaneously fund domestic agricultural subsidies and foreign aid? The policies oppose each other. When it comes to promoting development opportunities for farmers around the globe, one of USAID’s ostensible goals, the left hand of the U.S. binds its right.
The origin of agricultural subsidies goes back at least to the first Agricultural Adjustment Act, enacted in 1933 as an attempt to help Depression farmers cope. Today farm interests justify subsidies in name of food security or, since 9/11, national security. But it’s widely acknowledged that the pastoral American family farmer, the image that farm interests present to the American people when the merits of subsidies are debated, do not benefit most from agricultural subsidies. Large corporate farmers do.
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Photo Credit: Adapted from “YM009180,” courtesy of flickr user tpmartins, and “Badam Bagh Farm,” courtesy of flickr user U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan.