Posted May 12, 2006: Pastured-poultry farmer
Brian Moyer of Fleetwood, Pa., hosted a recent visit by a
West African agronomist and fair-trade advocate. The international
farmer-to-farmer visit highlighted how trade policy impacts
agriculture in all nations, and touched on a connection of
The Rodale Institute in Senegal.
Local country and municipality officials gathered with farmers
and a TV newsman to hear Dr. Thiendou Niang of Dakar, Senegal,
who is director of the Agricultural Policy Expertise Network.
The 20 West African nations in this network name poverty reduction
and environmental impact as their top concerns.
Using these key points, Dr. Niang explained the impact of
US cotton subsidies on Mali (West Africa), where 3 million
farmers are dependent in some way on cotton for income. A
one percent increase in cotton subsidies here meant a 24 percent
drop in farmer income there, translating to a 2 percent loss
in national income overall. US actions allowed the cotton
to hit the world market at about 44 percent of its cost of
production, he said. In the West African nation of Burkina
Faso, U.S. foreign aid of $10 was more than offset by cotton
trades losses of $13 due to trade-distorting practices that
favored the U.S.
When trade rules allow cheap imports of a major national
commodity into a developing country, there is depopulation
of the countryside, causing crowding and greater poverty in
cities and frequent economic immigration to the U.S. or other
developed nations by people willing to work for low wages
just to survive.
Niang called for trade justice at the southern Pennsylvania
farm just as he had earlier during his visits at the Senegalese
Embassy in Washington, D.C. and Harvard University Center
for Government and International Affairs.
When he spoke, Moyer said his farm is an example of U.S.
farms that are surviving subsidy-free by producing food that
customers buy directly without the influence of government
In the discussion that followed, Niang emphasized that he
did not favor an immediate halt to U.S. commodity subsidies
that would put vast rural areas of this country in economic
peril. Rather, he is asking his farm and policy audiences
on his speaking tour to seek U.S. policies that support farming
practices and economies here without causing major harm to
rural economies elsewhere. His part of the “Make Trade
Fair” tour was sponsored by Oxfam America (www.oxfamamerica.org)
and the National Peace Corps Association (www.rpcv.org).