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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Cotton Fine

Each year since 2008, the U.S. has given $147.3 million to cotton farmers.

Cotton farmers in Brazil.

This is an example of one of the outrageous and wasteful policies I’m trying to reform and why I’ve been working hard to fix national agriculture policy.

In 2008, Brazil successfully argued before the World Trade Organization (WTO) that U.S. agriculture subsidies to cotton producers violated WTO agreements. Following the WTO’s ruling, instead of reforming the domestic cotton program when facing retaliatory tariffs and sanctions from Brazil, Congress and the Administration agreed to pay the Brazilian cotton industry $147.3 million a year – the amount determined as the losses Brazilians incur as a result of U.S. cotton subsidies.

Now, not only are U.S. cotton farmers receiving millions in subsidies, but we are paying a $147.3 million fine to Brazil every year, year after year, instead of fixing the problem! It’s like choosing to pay a $150 parking ticket every day for your car to sit in front of a fire hydrant rather than in your own driveway.

It’s time to move the car. I’ve introduced legislation to stop these payouts and pressure the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to reform wasteful agricultural subsidies that only serve to coddle corporate agribusiness here in the U.S. We must also work to ensure that American goods, services, and intellectual property aren’t subject to future trade retaliations that could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

$147.3 million is not going to solve the debt crisis, but we have better uses for this money here at home instead of Brazil. $147.3 million could be used to:

  • Reduce the deficit
  • Fund Meals on Wheels to deliver approximately 21 million meals to seniors who are struggling with mobility
  • Send up to 20,000 kids to Head Start for a year
  • Provide 26,000 Pell grants to students
 Making commonsense reforms like this that save money for American taxpayers and create a fiscally and environmentally sustainable agriculture policy should be something that all of Congress can support, regardless of political party. 

Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress 

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