They are, however, not gullible enough to sell out their membership in favor
of transnational companies that want to buy U.S. grain and livestock at
unfair, disastrously low prices.
That is what "fast-track authority," which allows the Senate only a
yes-or-no vote on another trade treaty, would mean.
It is also what the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.-Canada
Free Trade Agreement and the 1996 "Freedom to Farm" law are all about.
Contrary to what proponents of the current farm policy are preaching, it is
their policies that cause excessive grain production. Their low prices force
farmers to plant every acre in an attempt to survive.
Five of the largest U.S. corn crops in history have been produced since
1990, three of those since 1996 under "free-trade" farm policies, without
The outrageous thing about the "farm groups" supporting fast-track authority
for the president's trade negotiators is that these groups are not primarily
The American Farm Bureau Federation, for instance, is an insurance company.
Of course it supports grain production from fence row to fence row, even if
that puts farmers out of business. The Farm Bureau then sells more crop
Rockwood Research, a subsidiary of Farm Journal Inc., conducted a nationwide
poll of 1,000 grain farmers in September for the American Corn Growers
Association, the National Farmers Union and two other groups.
A scientific poll, it found that 85% of the nation's farmers want the
government to stop importation of surplus grains into the U.S. market, such
as wheat from Canada.
Those imports result from the fast-track authority that gave us Nafta and
the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement.
Seventy-seven percent of those farmers want the "free-trade" 1996 farm law
changed. And 73% want Congress to lift the commodity-loan caps and raise the
The poll confirms that the American Corn Growers Association and National
Farmers Union represent the policies supported by the vast majority of
farmers, regardless of farm organization or political party affiliation, if
any. (Half of all farmers are unaffiliated with any farm organization.)
"Free-trade" farm programs don't even increase exports, as promised. U.S.
corn exports have dropped from 2.228 billion bushels in the 1995-96
marketing year to only 1.475 billion in the just-ended 1997-98 marketing
More significantly, U.S. corn exports averaged 1.9 billion bushels from 1980
Under the "free-trade" farm policies of the 1990s, exports have only
averaged 1.74 billion bushels and have never reached the record corn exports
of 2.4 billion bushels of 1979-80, when higher price supports were in effect
in the "old" farm programs.
Meanwhile, world grain production has risen, from 1.549 billion metric tons
in 1988-89 to 1.890 billion in 1997-98.
Are U.S. consumers benefiting from the drastically lower corn and wheat
prices of today? Of course not! Consumers are not seeing lower retail prices
for bread, corn flakes, meat and so forth.
Meanwhile, groups promoting "free trade" are never restrained by the facts!
They say that because of Nafta, Mexico is importing millions of additional
tons of grain. Compared with when?
Mexico imported more U.S. corn in the marketing years 1979-80, 1980-81,
1982-83, 1986-87, 1989-90, 1994-95 and 1995-96 than in 1996-97, according to
import numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The same picture is unfolding for grain. Canadian wheat is rolling into and
through the United States while up to 250 million bushels of grain harvested
by our farmers this fall will be stored on the ground and threatened with
The United States exports less than 16% of its total grain and oilseeds,
beef and pork production, supply or utilization on a combined unit or
Yet the "free-trade" farm groups are supporting policies that tie the prices
received by farmers in our largest market, the domestic U.S. market, to
Their policies cause corn and wheat prices to be at the lowest levels in
history, when adjusted for inflation. It is a disaster for agriculture and
for the farmers going bankrupt.
Unfortunately, the dues-paying members of these groups are not the only ones
who suffer and go broke. Were it only so, the "free-trade" groups might be
Daniel T. McGuire, who owns a corn and soybean farm in Nebraska, chairs the
policy development committee of the Washington-based American Corn Growers
Association. This article was distributed by Bridge News.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
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