The United States is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of a range of agricultural commodities, and the largest provider of foreign assistance, so U.S. policies have big effects on global food security and other global public goods linked to agriculture. On the positive side of the ledger, President Obama created the Feed the Future aid initiative to promote agricultural development in poorer countries as a tool to achieve the global goals of ending hunger and extreme poverty, which are mostly rural. But that generosity is undercut by U.S. support for farmers that distorts global markets and ignores negative spillovers for the rest of the world.
In this book, Elliott focuses on three policy areas that are particularly damaging for developing countries: traditional agricultural subsidy and trade policies that support the incomes of American farmers at the expense of farmers elsewhere; the biofuels mandate, which in its current form increases market volatility while doing little if anything to mitigate climate change; and weak regulation of antibiotic use in livestock, which contributes to the global spread of drug-resistant super bugs. While noting that broad reforms are needed to fix these problems, Elliott also identifies practical steps that U.S. policymakers could take in the relatively short run to improve farm policies—for American taxpayers and consumers as well as for the poor and vulnerable in developing countries.