New York Times Editorial Response




By Steve Verett

EVP, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.


One of the leading critics of U.S. agricultural policy inrecent months has been the New York Times EditorialBoard.


Numerous New York Timeseditorials have focused on cotton and tirelessly argued the mantra of those whoshallowly believe U.S. cotton programs are chains holding back the unbridledwill of the marketplace.


Two weeks ago an editor from the New York Times spent a few days in Lubbock, ostensibly to learnabout the U.S. cotton industry and how the U.S. cotton program really works.Hours of discussions with producers and knowledgeable representatives fromindustry and academic arenas were invested in good faith to communicate theother side of the support picture.


The end result of those many hours of discussions was a NewYork Times’ editorial entitled, “The Fabricof Lubbock’s Life”.


In it the New York Timesreiterates its mantra for why elimination of U.S. cotton programs is the “magicbullet” that will increase cotton prices and lift the oppressed farmers ofBurkino Faso, Benin and Mali out of their economic doldrums.


Unfortunately for the New York Times, it appears that a little moreattention should have been paid to the world cotton market the past two weeksinstead of devoting all their efforts to repackaging old arguments for thewholesale elimination of U.S. farm programs.


So what has changed since the New York Times editorial writer spent his time on the Texas HighPlains, politely taking notes and “talking” with the real people of West Texas?


The answer is simple – nothing but the market.


The same market, which the New York Times says is easily manipulated by the rich at the expenseof the poor, has reacted quickly to the fundamentals that drive all markets inthe end – Supply and Demand.


The good news for the New York Times is that the higher cotton prices they say willremedy the economic woes of the cotton producer in Burkino Faso have arrived.


In fact, all of the things they say would happen when worldcotton prices increase are occurring. Cotton producers in Burkino Faso, Benin,and even the United States, are getting more for the cotton they produce. Thecost of U.S. farm programs is going down, saving the U.S. taxpayer millions ofdollars. And, the overall effect on the consumer is likely to be negligible,after all there is only about a dollar’s worth of cotton in a pair of jeans.


Reality has poked a huge hole in the New York Times’ argument that U.S. cotton programs were solelyresponsible for low cotton prices. The bitter pill the New York Timessaid Lubbock and the U.S. cotton industrymust take to reach that goal didn’t need to be served after all.


No doubt subsidies help our cotton producers meet the highercosts of production that exist in this country, but government support ofagriculture does so much more. It primes the economic engine and keeps allparts of the U.S. agriculture industry competitive in a drastically unevenglobal marketplace.


Farm programs at their most fundamental levels support theinfrastructure of this nation’s agricultural base. They encourage environmentalstewardship and promote cleaner air and water by helping producers afford the increasedcosts associated with growing crops using environmentally friendly technology.They also help guarantee a safe and reliable food and fiber supply for the U.S.citizenry.


Following the money leads to a realization that agriculturalsubsidies only help make up the difference between production costs and worldmarket prices and rarely stay in the producer’s pocket. Instead, subsidies doexactly what they are designed to do; allow producers to pay for the goods andservices required to produce a crop in the U.S. and support the infrastructureof their industry.


For the Lubbock area, cotton program dollars supportagricultural product and service providers, churches, school districts,hospitals, car dealerships, restaurants and on and on. For Lubbock a healthycotton industry continues to be a source of pride and economic reliability.


Farm programs exist because our population believes that ahealthy U.S. agriculture sector is important to the long-term viability andsecurity of this country.