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Surprise! World Bank Says Farming Better Way to End Hunger

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Worldwide, the belief that rapid industrialization is the answer to poverty and hunger now faces a challenge from the World Bank, issued today.
Launching the Bank's latest World Development Report, Agriculture for Development, the Bank's president, Robert Zoellick, said: "A dynamic agriculture for development agenda can benefit the estimated 900 million rural people in the developing world who live on less than $1 a day, most of whom are engaged in agriculture. We need to give agriculture more prominence. At the global level, countries must deliver on vital reforms such as cutting subsidies and opening markets".

The report argued that richer countries would have to engage in this reform agenda, pointing out, for example, the damage done to African smallholders by the American government's subsidies to its cotton growers. Biofuels also come in for criticism. The World Bank said: "the problem is both tariffs and heavy subsidies in rich countries, which drive up food prices and limit export opportunities for efficient developing country providers."

No mention of the effect of $90+ per barrel

on the plight of the poor.

Chances are, that's not going to be a big benefit to agricultural producers anywhere; but ending subsidies, especially in light of today's ethanol stock crash, is probably NOT going to be a popular idea in developed countries.

Cotton is one of the US's biggest and most heavily subsidized crops. Those subsidies are highly popular with the farmers -- fewer than 2000 in all -- who receive them, but the farmers who grow cotton don't always see the subsidies.

The vaunted "free market" is, like most GOP ideals, not exactly free after all.

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Why would anyone live in a land that cannot feed its populace? For years, I have watched aghast at the global push for Third World farmers to plant monoculture export crops, hearing the authorities all say that without these exports the developing world cannot develop. So the farmers all grow cotton or soybeans or the like, instead of crops to feed their own people, who then must import food from, you guessed it, the American cornbelt. The prices for the monoculture crops get depressed thanks to all those farmers trying to compete with US agribusiness operations, so the money to buy the import food dries up. The farmers plant junk and their people go hungry. And of course the World Bank has been culprit Number One in championing this way of business.

The peoples of the world must guarantee their own livelihood first. It is senseless for populations to grow beyond the capacity of their own lands to feed them, in expectation that someone such as US farmers will fill their bellies. Once people have fed themselves, then and only then might they concern themselves with how to get their hands on Volvos, iPods and "Sopranos" DVDs.