To aid farmers abroad, address problems at home
Your Sept. 30 article "Poor nations keep heat on trade" accurately captures the growing power of developing countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and their growing frustration with US farm programs.
In effect, the US 2002 Farm Bill facilitates the selling of commodities at below their cost of production (dumping) on the world market, causing tremendous harm to farmers around the world. But it would be wrong to believe that eliminating subsidies will reduce dumping.
The central problem with US agriculture policy is that it drives prices paid to our farmers down below the cost of production by encouraging over-supply. As we've seen in Mexico, Canada, and Australia, when countries slash subsidies without ensuring fair markets, family farmers can't survive, and they sell out to larger, industrial farms. The result is fewer but larger farms - while the same challenge of overproduction remains. It is oversupply and decreasing competition that are driving prices down in the United States and around the world. Subsidies are a symptom, rather than the cause, of our dysfunctional agricultural policies. Until the US ensures fair market conditions and prices for US farmers, we will neither help farmers around the world nor improve our standing at the WTO.
Takoma Park, Md.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Your Sept. 26 editorial "Hoist by Its Own Tariff" argued that the recently released International Trade Commission (ITC) report confirms that President Bush's temporary steel tariffs were a bad idea. You were selective in your reading. As you reported, the ITC found that steel-industry consolidation and new labor contracts have permitted dramatically improved productivity at mills supplying manufacturers of cars, appliances, and the like. The ITC also found that steel prices have been falling since fall 2002 and are now lower in the United States than in Europe and Asia. That helps the competitiveness of US metal fabricators. For example, the report shows a general improvement in the profitability of steel-using industries, such as makers of auto parts.
Professor of Business University of Maryland
Regarding your Sept. 29 article "For poor, hard times get harder": The pinch of poverty as felt from the White House is like the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale wherein the princess must prove she is the true princess by sensing a pea under her mattress. But George W. Bush is only a pretender to such sensitivity and compassion, and is not the prince he claimed to be.
Nobody in governance seems to understand hunger, deprivation, and joblessness - certainly not as President Johnson did growing up dirt poor on a farm. Today the poor have no voice. And their numbers will grow until the pea can be felt.
At a time of virulent Francophobia in America, William J. Dean's essay on the beautiful life of a Parisian ("I sample the beautiful life of a Parisian," Sept. 29) was utterly refreshing. My positive experiences in France and with French expatriates in the United States contradict the negative stereotypes that are now standard fare in politics and big media. Thank you for offering your readership an alternative to jingoism with this short but thoughtful essay.
Candice Baker Leit
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