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Exported to Death: The Failure of Agricultural Deregulation

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Abstract:

In 1996, free market Republicans and budget-cutting Democrats offered farmers a deal: accept a cut in farm subsidies and, in return, the government would promote exports in new trade deals with Latin America and in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and eliminate restrictions on planting decisions. In economic terms, farmers were asked to take on risks heretofore assumed by the government in exchange for deregulation and the promise of increased exports. This sounded like a good deal to many farmers, especially since exports and prices had been rising for several years.

Many farmers and agribusiness interests supported the bill, and it was in keeping with the position of many farm representatives and most members of Congress from farm states who already supported the WTO, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the extension of fast-track trade negotiating authority, usually in the name of supporting family farmers.