Are Farming Exports the Future?

With all the talk about how the U.S. needs to increase exports, you don't hear this to often.

In June, Congress will take up the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) between the U.S. and six Caribbean Basin countries — a deal that would open the U.S. to increased imports of sugar, among the most heavily protected crops in America. Meanwhile, the Geneva-based World Trade Organization is pushing Europe and the U.S. to trim the hefty subsidies that provide some farmers with a third or more of their income. Agriculture "is the tiebreaker" that will bring developing nations to the table for an overall deal that will include manufactured goods and services, says U.S. agricultural trade negotiator Allen F. Johnson. The Farm Bureau supports CAFTA and the WTO initiative in the face of critics who insist that trade deals will hasten consolidation of U.S. farms into large-scale corporate agriculture.

Despite skepticism among some farm families and rebellions by state Farm Bureau offices in North Dakota, Louisiana, and Colorado, Stallman remains an adamant free marketer. During nearly six years heading the Bureau, he has beefed up its economic analysis and insists that its studies demonstrate that America's farming future lies in exports.