Monday, March 30, 2009

Why we need bigger pages in farm magazines...

Mike Wilson's latest editorial on protectionism is right on, only the same dang thing happened to him as happens to me.  The editor obviously removed an important paragraph.

No - wait.  He IS the editor.

Anyhoo, Mike carefully points out the dangers of rising protectionist sentiment in the US and elsewhere.
Protectionism is rooted in populism, and politicians feed on populism like ravenous dogs. But protectionism takes away competition, which forces Americans to pay more for any given product touched by a protected industry.  “If we do this at home, we just raise costs for all those things,” notes Ross Korves, trade policy analyst for Truth About Trade and Technology, a nonprofit farmer-driven advocacy group. “If our goal is to repair more bridges, then what we’re telling ourselves with this ‘Buy American’ measure is we’re not going to repair as many bridges because it’s going to cost more money because we’re forced to use more expensive inputs.” [More]
And the faithful all say "amen".

But at some point, his intimate knowledge of farm policy fails, because the paragraph on protectionist ag policy doesn't appear.  For starters, he does not mention the sugar program, which would have made both Hawley and Smoot smile. And where was the line or two about the ethanol tariff?

More to the point, our trade partners (and the vast majority of economists) think our farm subsidy program is de facto protectionism, equally as powerful for trade-killing as outright tariff barriers.
But these defences may not be strong enough. Multilateral agreements provide little insurance against domestic subsidies, fiercer use of anti-dumping or the other forms of creeping protection. Most countries are able to raise tariffs, because their applied rates are below the maximum allowed by their WTO commitments. They may choose to do so despite the possible disruption to global supply chains. And because global sourcing amplifies the effect of tariff rises, even action that is permissible under WTO rules could cause a lot of damage. The subtler variants of protection may be similarly disruptive. [More]
 Well, never mind, those protections are fair because they protect the "right people".

Oddly, this is what steelworkers think as well.

Omission is the easy way out, and too often the choice for ag media today, IMHO.  We practice selective logic and narrow criticism that tiptoes around sacred cows.  I understand not getting in faces every day, but failing to mention even in passing our own warts leaves a false impression, and presumes a moral highground that we really do not occupy.

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