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Re: Price Supports
Thank you for sharing that insight, Dr. Benbrook.
You allude to an enlightened farm policy that would have farm
support flexibility to raise diversified crops in rotation, for example,
soil-building forage crops.
Here I would like to point readers to the web page for Thomas Jefferson
Agricultural Institute, a non-profit agricultural education and
research center based in Columbia, MO. One of its objectives
is farm crop diversification.... also based on this understanding.
Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute
Thomas Jefferson Initiative for Crop Diversification
It provides download access to the CAST report
"Diversifying U.S. Crop Production."
It provides fact sheets, crop budgets, and research trials on
alternative crops like Amaranth, Buckwheat, Canola, Cowpea,
Flax, Mungbean, Pearl Millet, Sesame, Sunflower.
There are other great sources on alternative crops
(NewCrops, AFSIC, ATTRA, MAC, SARE, WI-MN),
but it always comes back to markets. It gets complicated
from there as to why a market exists and which grain
elevators buy alternative crops on a regional and
geographical basis, price paid per bushel, etc.
Yet, The Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute has the right idea
when it talks about farm program support for diversified crops,
for increased environmental and economic benefits.
NCAT / ATTRA
Chuck Benbrook wrote:
Price supports, as they were traditionally provided to farmers up
to the 1996 Freedom to (Fail) Farm bill, are not subsidies in the way
today's farm program payments are direct, unmitigated income transfers,
i.e. subsidies. Price supports were offered ONLY in conjunction with a
farmer agreeing to set-aside some percentage of his/her cropland base;
target payments tied to the same land in years of low prices also
effect, government rental payments for keeping 10-25% of a producers base
acreage out of production.
For a thorough analysis of what was wrong with price supports,
set-asides and pre-1996 commodity policy, read the commodity policy
sections of the 1990 NAS report "Alternative Agriculture." Dr. Daryl
in his excellent new policy paper, "Rethinking US Agricultural Policy:
Changing Course to Secure Farmer Livelihoods Worldwide," accessible via
the Univ. of Tennessee "Agricultural Policy Analysis Center" (go to
www.agpolicy.org) makes a compelling case for the role for counter-cyclic
supply controls through set-asides, coupled with a farmer-owned long term
grain reserve and the CRP.
Really enlightened commodity policy would: (1) target set-asides
to vulnerable lands, (2) instead of idling set-aside land, give
option to follow a more diversified rotation, including forages, so the
agronomic benefits of adding a legume into the mix are coupled with the
supply control benefits, (3) offer payments premiums to farmers achieving
high nitrogen use efficiency, a policy idea I included in the 17-point
presented at the Kellogg Food and Society conference. Narrative
the 17-point plan, including several items on commodity policy, is at --
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