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Elusive trade pact puts farm policy in limbo
Over the past weekend as Ohio farmers scrambled to put crops in the ground, international trade negotiators hurriedly extended the April 30 deadline for completing the agricultural portion for the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Talks. The delay was indicative of the complexity and divisive nature of the agreements.

The uncertainty surrounding trade issues has made any effort to craft a reasonable farm bill an exercise in futility.

This week in Washington, U.S. Senators Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) introduced a proposal to extend the current farm bill pending the successful conclusion of the Doha Round of Trade Talks. However, our own trade negotiators are proposing to reduce U.S. domestic supports by some 60 percent, and our international trading partners, including Brazil and Canada, continue to file grievances to challenge our commodity support system.

Meanwhile our production costs continue to explode, as market prices for most major commodities languish near historic lows. This sets the table for an impending economic disaster for farmers.

We feel extending the 2002 Farm Bill may be the best short-term option for farmers today, but we cannot support a proposal by Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee with oversight authority on U.S. trade policy, to make the extension contingent on a Congressional agreement to renew the Presidential Trade Promotion Authority or TPA.

The TPA, which is set to expire in July of 2007, grants the Administration the authority to negotiate trade agreements without Congressional interference. Under this authority, Congress may only accept a trade agreement in its entirety or reject it.

The current generation of trade agreements has been disastrous for farmers all across the globe, as rural poverty has increased everywhere. Im sure we can do much better in crafting international trade agreements. Maybe a little democracy could improve the process.

-Joe Logan, Ohio Farmers Union president

This farm news was published in the May 10, 2006 issue of Farm World.