American food policy has long been rife with head-scratching illogic. We spend billions every year on farm subsidies, many of which help wealthy commercial operations to plant more crops than we need. The glut depresses world crop prices, harming farmers in developing countries. Meanwhile, millions of Americans live tenuously close to hunger, which is barely kept at bay by a food stamp program that gives most beneficiaries just a little more than $4 a day.
So it’s almost too absurd to believe that House Republicans are asking for a farm bill that would make all of these problems worse. For the putative purpose of balancing the country’s books, the measures that the House Republican caucus is pushing for in negotiations with the Senate, as Congress attempts to pass a long-stalled extension of the farm bill, would cut back the meager aid to our country’s most vulnerable and use the proceeds to continue fattening up a small number of wealthy American farmers.
A great op-ed by Joe Stiglitz in last Saturday’s New York Times. The whole thing is worth reading, as Stiglitz manages to distill the essence of the political economy of US agricultural and food policy in less than 1,500 words. And in that op-ed, I recognize the Joe Stiglitz that become one of my intellectual heroes when I started studying development microeconomics and realized that he had written seminal contributions on many topics of importance to development.