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October 07, 2012

African cotton producers fear U.S. farm bill will worsen their plight

African countries that have protested American cotton subsidies for years recently criticized the Farm Bill making its way through the U.S. Congress, saying it would keep that support under a new guise, according to a June report by AFP.

The Farm Bill, five-year legislation on the nation's agricultural and food policy currently under consideration in the Senate, allows American farmers to insure their harvests against adverse weather conditions with the backing of the federal government.

A delegation of cotton-producing African countries -- Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali -- were in Washington to express concerns that the farm bill will penalize African cotton growers.

"We are worried, because this new element of the farm bill appears to be a subsidy," said the coordinator of the C4 group, Burkina Faso's trade minister, Arthur Kafando.

The C4 group fears that the insurance program being debated in Senate is "more dangerous" than the direct subsidies being provided by Washington.

Kafando, who met with US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and senators, said he called for "a significant reduction, or the elimination of subsidies no matter where they come from, not only the United States, but also China and India."

The farm bill entails $970 billion in spending over the next five years, a reduction of $23 billion from the expiring program, notably due to the elimination of direct subsidies to farmers.

In 2003, the C4 group launched a sectoral initiative on cotton at the Geneva-based World Trade Organization aimed at countering trade-distorting subsidies. But with the Doha round of global trade talks stalled, the cotton issue has remained at an impasse.

Though US subsidies to cotton producers have been reduced by two-thirds since 2004-2005, currently amounting to about $1.2 billion, that decline was led by a rise in global cotton prices.


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