Source of image: “Mark Kegans for The New York Times”, at http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/articles/09harvest.html
(p. A1) As Iowa finishes harvesting its second-largest corn crop in history, Roger Fray is racing to cope with the most visible challenge arising from the United States’ ballooning farm subsidy program: the mega-corn pile.
Soaring more than 60 feet high and spreading a football field wide, the mound of corn behind the headquarters of West Central Cooperative here resembles a little yellow ski hill. ”There is no engineering class that teaches you how to cover a pile like this,” Mr. Fray, the company’s executive vice president for grain marketing, said from the adjacent road. ”This is country creativity.”
At 2.7 million bushels, the giant pile illustrates the explosive growth in corn production by American farmers in recent years, which this year is estimated to reach a nationwide total of at least 10.9 billion bushels, second only to last year’s 11.8 billion bushels.
But this season’s bumper crop is too much of a good thing, underscoring what critics call a paradox at the heart of the government farm subsidy program: America’s efficient farmers may be encouraged to produce far more than the country can use, depressing prices and raising subsidy payments.
. . .
(p. A1) Even as the Bush administration tries to persuade member nations of the World Trade Organization that it is serious about trimming agricultural subsidies, federal spending on farm payments is closing in on the (p. C4) record of $22.9 billion set in 2000, when the Asian financial crisis caused American exports to fall and crop prices to sink, pushing the Midwest farm belt into recession.
If export sales stay weak, this year’s subsidies could hit a new record. Just last week the United States Agriculture Department raised its projection of payments to farmers by $1.3 billion, to $22.7 billion. In 2004, the subsidies were only $13.3 billion.
In response to pressure, the Bush administration said last month that the United States was prepared to cut its most trade-distorting farm subsidies by 60 percent over five years. The world’s poor nations, which tend to be heavily dependent on agriculture, complain that American and European Union farm subsidies spur growers to produce gluts that depress crop prices throughout the world.
. . .
Lately the giant piles have become the butt of jokes in farm country. They were spoofed in a fake picture, widely e-mailed, that showed a skier airborne atop West Central’s biggest pile, with the caption that said ”one thing you can do with a 3-million-bushel pile of harvested corn: Ski Iowa.”
ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO. “Mountains of Corn and a Sea of Farm Subsidies.” The New York Times (Weds., November 9, 2005): A1 & C4.
Source of image: http://www.chicagoboyz.net/archives/2004_11.html