27 November 2001
Crops Conf: US policy attacked

By Tom Allen-Stevens

DECOUPLING measures introduced under the Freedom to Farm bill in the USA are not working, a leading US journalist has said.

Nor is the world running out of land to farm; or of capacity to feed a growing population; nor does it need GM crops, he continued.

The myths were cast aside by award-winning writer Alan Guebert at the Crops Conference near Cambridge, on Tuesday (27 November).

He said that US agricultural policy is being dictated by an ever-decreasing number of very large farming concerns who are railroading the government.

“For example, Tyson Foods is the third largest poultry producer in the world; the two bigger ones are countries: China and Brazil,” Mr Guebert said.

Such companies were persuading US Congress to pay out “staggering” amounts of agricultural support, which totalled $32.3 million in 2000.

These policies have helped keep farm prices “chronically low”, and spurred the rapid adoption of new technology, such as GM crops.

But he painted a very different picture of worldwide capacity to increase production.

“The US Department of Agriculture confessed it had underestimated Chinas arable land base by 49% and Chinas grain stocks by a factor of seven.

“Earlier this year China in fact had a complete years worth of grain in its bins.”

He also said that conservative estimates show Brazil could add 200 to 300 million acres of rowcrops to its current production area without felling a single tree.

“In essence. Brazil has an unfarmed United States within its borders,” Mr Guebert maintained.

He cautioned delegates not to seek a similar policy for European farmers to the US Freedom to Farm Bill.

“American farmers got it alright, and by all accounts they will get more under farm legislation currently under discussion in Congress.

“More government subsidies, more low prices, more GMOs and more hard-earned lessons from a hard, cold world of global agriculture.”

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