The Human Cost of Ag. Subsidies

We don’t often see the human toll subsidies take, but this article in the New York Times does a pretty good job. Suicide among farmers in India is at record highs, and a large portion of the despair comes from high debts incurred to keep farms going. One culprit is subisides to US agriculture that discourage importing lower cost products from nations such as India.

Though the crisis has been building for years, it presents an increasingly thorny political challenge for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. High suicide rates and rural despair helped topple the previous government two years ago and put Mr. Singh in power. Changes brought on by 15 years of economic reforms have opened Indian farmers to global competition and given them access to expensive and promising biotechnology, but not necessarily opened the way to higher prices, bank loans, irrigation or insurance against pests and rain. Mr. Singh’s government, which has otherwise emerged as a strong ally of America, has become one of the loudest critics in the developing world of Washington’s $18 billion a year in subsidies to its own farmers, which have helped drive down the price of cotton for farmers like Mr. Shende.