A draft text for a framework on farm trade has been drawn, but nearly everyone wants it revised. That's especially true of the U.S.-based National Cotton Council, which has been a leading critic of the broad plan to cut subsidies and import tariffs. But other commodity groups also are watching the trade talks, which seem to be pushing domestic farm programs in a greener direction.
In response to the ruling, and to try to prevent other WTO challenges, U.S. officials are considering rolling back billions of dollars of subsidies for a range of crops including soybeans, wheat and corn. According to the Environmental Law and Policy Center, this will mean less income for farmers, more agribusiness bankruptcies, and a weaker economy. However, in a press conference this week, the Center claimed there may be an opportunity in the midst of the WTO's pressure to cut U.S. commodity subsidies.
Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center: "Conservation programs are important, but will become even more important if WTO continues its opinion of subsidies. An increased way for farmers to get more income is through conservation programs."
In WTO terminology, subsidies are identified by boxes which are given certain colors. All domestic support measures, including crop subsidies, considered to distort production and trade fall into the amber box.
Programs that are not targeted at particular products and geared towards environmental protection and rural development fall into the green box. Conservation geared subsidies for farmers would be unlimited because they are not subject to WTO challenges.
Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center: "If the WTO goes where we think they are, we are going to have to be more creative in terms of 'green box' programs that get some advantages to farmers and make use of rural land in our country."