Listening once again to NPR on my way home and caught the middle and end of a strange story. So today I had time to read the transcript
Read it or listen to the story but here's a short version.
U.S. taxpayers subsidize a lot of agriculture. We pay farmers to grow some things, help make up their losses on some things and occasionally pay them NOT to grow certain things.
We help cotton growers. Guess the primary reason is so they can compete better in a highly competitive global market. Seems a cotton farmer in Brazil named Pedro didn't like that. Thought it wasn't fair. After some years he becomes (really) Brazil's secretary of trade in the Agriculture Department. So he files a case with the World Trade Organization against the U.S. and wins. Seems the WTO has some rules against certain subsidies. But nothing happens. The U.S. keeps paying our cotton farmers.
So Pedro decides to retaliate by threatening to impose taxes on certain U.S. imports into Brazil. Well that brought a lot of people besides cotton farmers out of the woodwork.
I'll short-cut to the crazy punch-line: The U.S decided to pay Brazilian cotton farmers $147 million (no typo here six zeroes!) per year - again no typo. Not a one-time payment but $147,000,000 every year to even the playing field and avoid any penalties on their/our imported products.
This is likely to continue until at least 2012 when Congress reviews the Farm Bill again. Now I'm not smart enough to understand the complexities of subsidies and that whole market. But for us to pay almost $150 million to another country just so they will leave us alone? I don't know what to call this but it sounds more like something on the Sopranos.
I know at the Federal level $147 million won't go very far (heard somewhere the daily price tag for Obama's current trip runs pretty high) but I've got to believe we can find a better place to spend that money.
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