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Tell Secretary Vilsack to stop agriculture subsidies!

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Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has been appointed the new Secretary of Agriculture by President Obama. Due to his ties to Harvard as a recent Institute of Politics Fellow and the atmosphere surrounding the start of a new administration, we have a unique opportunity to play a role in the development of important agricultural policies. We believe that a key piece of sound agricultural policy reform must include the repeal of agricultural subsidies. We believe that agricultural subsidies must be repealed for a number of reasons: • At a cost of $25 billion per year, agricultural subsidies are extremely expensive. While they are meant to assist small farmers, 75% of the subsidies go to the top 10% of recipients. Riceland Foods, the largest single recipient of farm welfare, received nearly $70 million in subsidies for producing rice, soybeans, wheat, and corn in 2003, more than all the farmers in Rhode Island, Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, and New Jersey combined . We believe money currently used for agricultural subsidies could be better utilized either by returning it to taxpayers or spending it on other more worthy government programs. • Subsidies distort agricultural markets. They prevent foreign producers, particularly those from impoverished nations, from competing to provide the highest quality products at the lowest prices for American consumers, also depriving the foreign producers this opportunity to develop their own economies. • Subsidizing the production of wheat, corn, and sugar without providing even a single dollar to grow fruit and vegetables makes facing pressing health problems far more difficult. Obesity costs America about $125 billion every year, but subsidies continue to make producing and purchasing unhealthy foods easier than eating healthy . • At a time nearly one billion people in the world are hungry and Americans are paying ever higher prices at the checkout counter for food , we need to pursue policies that will increase agricultural production without harming farmers. New Zealand, one of the most agricultural nations in the developed world, eliminated agricultural subsidies in 1986. Since then, agricultural productivity has grown six times as fast annually as it did under subsidization and family farms still flourish . • Farm subsidies promote unsustainable, environmentally destructive farming practices as farmers strive to cultivate unproductive acres of land to qualify for greater subsidies, and over-utilize harmful fertilizers as a result of artificially suppressed prices. Cheap chemical treatments, subsidized water diversion, and overvalued farmland have all injured the environment and prevented effective conservation . Voices from very different parts of the political spectrum and with varied interests have spoken out against the current system of farm subsidies. The Environmental Defense Fund, Oxfam International, the One Campaign, the National Taxpayers Union, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation have all strongly criticized American farm subsidies. We add our voices to theirs to tell Secretary Vilsack that: “We believe that agricultural subsidies in the United States must end.” 1 2 3 4 5


Sarah Esty, Harvard Class of 2011 and member, Harvard College Democrats Matt Cavedon, Harvard Class of 2011 and member, Harvard Republican Club
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