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Trade and Agriculture

Some of the most difficult challenges poor countries face in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals include poor starting conditions, weak governance and institutions, conflict and instability, and environmental degradation. Agriculture plays a critical role in meeting these challenges.

U.S. agricultural trade policies are sorely in need of reform. Between 1986 and 2006, the government spent nearly half a trillion dollars on U.S. farm programs. (Over the same period, the 15 countries of the European Union spent well over a trillion dollars in support of their farmers.)

Farm payments shield U.S. farmers from loss during periods when prices for basic commodities such as rice, corn, wheat, and soybeans are low. This protection allows farmers to continue planting even when it would otherwise be unprofitable, leading to large surpluses and an increase in U.S. exports. However, both of these reduce prices in world markets.

Further Reading

Agriculture and Challenges to Development

One of the major barriers to development in sub-Saharan Africa has been the poor performance of its agricultural sector. What has this meant for development?

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Farmers in the Developing World

Reducing poverty depends on improving opportunities for small-scale farmers to sell their products at a fair price. Thus, it is crucial to have fair global agricultural trade rules.

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