Sep 13

Jennifer Aniston and I, Together at Last…

… in a Bloomberg article on quinoa:

Bolivian farmer Rafael Garcia is living larger thanks to one of Jennifer Aniston’s favorite salad ingredients.

“We sleep in good beds. We eat good food,” said Garcia, who heads an alliance of 37 producers of a crop called quinoa in the western Oruro region. “We now have bikes and motorcycles while we used to go everywhere by foot.”

Thousands of miles from celebrities and chefs who tout the health benefits of quinoa — a seed packed with protein and fiber — sales are lifting the fortunes of Andean farmers who’ve grown it for centuries mostly for subsistence. Governments of Peru and Bolivia, which still dominate the $123 million export market, are hoping the trend can last as prices that have doubled to about $3,000 a metric ton since 2007 attract better capitalized competitors.

I am quoted further in the article, when discussing how the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has declared 2013 to be the International Year of Quinoa:

Those attributes will help distinguish Bolivian quinoa from the competition, said Paola Mejia, the manager of the Bolivian Chamber of Royal Quinoa and Organic Products Exporters, which is seeking international certification for the seed grown by the country’s 12,000 farmers.

“There are different sorts of quinoa and the world is going to ask for different quality types,” she said in a phone interview.

It’s not clear the world will keep asking, according to Bellemare. “To say, ‘Let’s make this the next big thing,’ maybe Madison Avenue would be able to do that. I honestly doubt the FAO has the marketing firepower,” he said.

Jul 13

In Industrialized America, Why Do Members of Congress Favor Farm Subsidies?

That’s the title of my first Key Findings Brief (link opens a .pdf document) as a member of the Scholars Strategy Network (SSN), which I finally joined last week after putting off submitting my application materials for months and after being encouraged to do so by my coauthor Nick Carnes, who is himself co-director of the Research Triangle SSN regional network.

As per its mission statement, the SSN Continue reading →

Jul 13

On Farm Subsidies and Quinoa: Yours Truly in the Washington Post

This raises a question: Why are lawmakers so willing to vote for farm subsidies — even lawmakers who usually oppose government spending? …

One theory is that money explains it all. Wealthy agribusinesses are somehow paying off Republicans to vote their way. …

Not everyone’s convinced by this, though. In a recent working paper (pdf), Duke University economist Marc Bellemare and political scientist Nicholas Carnes came up with a better reason for Congress’s ag-subsidy love. Farmers and farm owners have disproportionate political sway in key districts. …

Bellemare tells me that he expected agribusiness lobbying to have the biggest impact on various farm votes before they did the study. But that wasn’t the case. Pressure at the polls turned out to be the key factor.

That’s Brad Plumer on the Washington Post‘s WonkBlog in a post about why Congress supports agriculture. Continue reading →