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Farm subsidies and global poverty

July 31, 2006

Re "The world's other crisis," editorial, July 26

To lament global poverty while later implicating U.S. farm subsidies, not only as the culprit in the collapse of the World Trade Organization negotiations but as harming "every American taxpayer and consumer," indicates a lack of understanding of the issues.

U.S. farm subsidies originate from the Dust Bowl era, when famine was a real possibility. They ensure sufficient production of grains by guaranteeing that farmers will receive a minimum "floor price." Subsidies are provided only when the world price falls below that floor price. This price guarantee keeps many smaller family farms farming. But the real benefit to us is that farm subsidies are our insurance policy against famine. Although Americans today might dismiss the possibility of famine, our grain reserves are just a few months' supply.

Although California agriculture is largely free of any government subsidies, I do believe that there are opportunities to reform federal farm policies that favor the Midwest. But as a taxpayer and a consumer, I also believe that the cost of U.S. farm subsidies is a small price to pay for the safety net against famine they provide.

FREDERICK W. KLOSE

Executive Director

California Agriculture Export Council

Sacramento

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It is very rare that the media raise issues of poverty that are not the immediate consequence of some headline-grabbing disaster. As you suggest, however, poverty is killing more people around the world than any current war or natural disaster. But the reason for the world's inattention is more than the fact that there is no strong political constituency for free trade. Rather, it is because the poor do not have lobbyists or public relations firms. They do not have strong political champions. Our most recent "war on poverty" following Hurricane Katrina lasted about a week.

Headlines fade, but the ravages of poverty continue to kill and maim in silence and in darkness, nowhere near anyone's spotlight.

DAVID A. LASH

Los Angeles

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