Accessibility links

Survey: Most Americans Disagree with Current US System of Farm Subsidies - 2004-01-23

Government farm subsidies in the United States have long been a contentious issue with U.S. trading partners and a new opinion poll says the policy is also unpopular among most Americans. Only about 10 percent of Americans say they support the current system of farm subsidies.

The new survey in the United States on trade issues says most Americans do not support the billions of dollars that annually subsidize large farms. But they still support subsidies for small farms during years with poor crop yields.

Two years ago, the United States spent about $12 billion on subsidies for the country's farming industry. But up to 80 percent of the money went to big businesses that farm more than 202 hectares. The poll says most Americans oppose the current policy that gives more money to the big farms.

Steven Kull, a researcher with the Program on International Policy Attitudes, says Americans believe the government should spend much less on farm subsidies.

"So if the U.S. government was doing what the majority of Americans wanted," he said, "U.S. farm subsidies would be much much smaller than they in fact are at the moment and they would be so small that they would not be an issue in current trade negotiations."

Disputes over farm subsidies were partly blamed for the collapse in recent WTO trade talks in Cancun, Mexico. Developed nations each year spend about $300 billion on agricultural subsidies.

Leaders from developing nations say those subsidies hurt their farmers by artificially lowering the price of agricultural products. But developed countries say they need the subsidies to prevent their farms from going out of business.