Members of the ONE Campaign are used to getting email from celebrities—Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Bono are only a few of the many luminaries involved in this campaign to fight global poverty. Last week, however, the email was different. It was from Kenneth Gallaway, a third-generation cotton, corn, and wheat farmer who was asking ONE members to band together to limit the subsidies that go to American farmers.
Gallaway admitted that he receives those sorts of subsidies—a total of $23 billion of which were given out in 2005—but pointed out that most of the money goes to big agriculture. “The bulk of these farm subsidies go to big-business farmers: 2% of farmers receive 35% of the payments.”
This system has repercussions felt far beyond U.S. borders. “These subsidies have a global impact, undercutting farmers in the developing world and here in the US as large farms can sell their goods at prices lower than the cost of production.” Small farmers can’t compete on this sort of uneven playing field.
Gallaway was urging support for an amendment, introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND), which would address the issue of large subsidies to huge farming operations. “The Grassley-Dorgan amendment would cap subsidies at $250,000 per year, meaning that folks like me would still get the subsidies we need to remain competitive, but big business farmers can’t sell at artificially low prices.”
The ONE Campaign isn’t the only organization on-board with this issue; the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) is in favor as well. “The outcome will determine whether $1.1 billion can be saved and shifted to conservation, rural development, and food programs in the 2007 Farm Bill,” it explains to its members.
Despite calls of support from ONE Campaign members, the Grassley-Dorgan amendment was pulled at the last minute. As the ONE blog out of Columbus reports, “We were told that there would have been enough votes for it to pass because of all the calls from ONE members but for reasons unconfirmed it was pulled before a vote was made.”
Big agriculture have anything to do with that?