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House Votes to Cut Off Subsidies for Brazilian Cotton Farmers

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Washington, D.C. – A majority of the House of Representatives today approved an amendment that would end U.S. taxpayer-funded subsidies for Brazilian cotton farmers in one of a series of votes on an appropriations bill to fund agriculture and rural development programs for fiscal year 2012.

The amendment sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) would prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture from sending $147 million next year to the Brazil Cotton Institute under an agreement that was forged to get around a ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that subsidies to American cotton farmers violate international trade rules.

“Today the House of Representatives took a courageous first step toward reforming our nation’s flawed agribusiness subsidies,” said David DeGennaro, a legislative analyst at the Environmental Working Group. “A majority of the House voted to suspend payments to the Brazil Cotton Institute next year – hush money intended to buy off Brazil and keep it from retaliating for illegal domestic cotton subsidies. If this restriction makes it through the Senate and is signed into law, it will force Congress to do its job finally and reform the cotton programs to comply with the WTO ruling. And that will be a big step toward ending the misguided domestic subsidies that distort markets, further impoverish farmers in developing nations and divert scarce federal dollars away from more deserving programs – all while contributing to the national deficit.”

“With farm subsidies finally on the table in discussions about reducing that debt, this vote sends a strong signal that the time for reform is now,” said DeGennaro. “Taxpayers can no longer afford to send money to wealthy agribusinesses and absentee landowners here in America, let alone cotton farmers in Brazil. Negotiators in the debt talks should build on this step, and this commonsense amendment should become law as soon as possible.”

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