The Difficulty of Being on the Side of the Global Poor and ‘Eating Local”

After seeing David Frum’s excellent performance in a ROM debate on whether Pierre Trudeau was a disaster for Canada, I picked up his latest book, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.

It’s excellent.

One interesting point that just grabbed me was a comment he made on unintended consequences of US farm subsidies. If you don’t already know, the US subsidizes most of her farmers. Oxfam has pointed out that in 2002, the US paid $3.4 billion in subsidies to cotton growers in the US (more than double the aid the US gives to all of sub-Saharan Africa). These subsidies encourage farmers of all stripes to grow more commodities than Americans can consume. Without US subsidies, “Africa would emerge as a leading cotton-producing region.”

And it’s not just Africa that is affected, America’s poor are too. Subsidies drive up the price of basic foodstuffs. Americans pay more than double the world price for sugar, 23% more for milk and 37% more for cheese.

So next time somebody guilt trips you for not buying produce from your local farmer’s market, tell them you’re caring for the global poor instead and buying abroad.

It’s social justice after all.