Courtesy Reuters

This is a strange and painful year to talk about grain. Our televisions bring us pictures of starving African children, but world grain stocks exceed 190 million tons—a record surplus. Federal subsidies for agriculture will total nearly $19.5 billion in 1985, but U.S. farming is in a historic recession. Ironically, the most important customer for U.S. grain exports is the Soviet Union; the United States and its allies now must compete for the privilege of selling to our chief adversary. It is a curious year indeed.

It is time to put to rest many of the myths we have long cherished about agriculture. We had come to believe that America could feed a hungry world, and we debated how much leverage this power would give us. We believed that we not only should, but could, protect farm incomes and rural lifestyles through public policies that manipulated supplies and demand. We

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  • Barbara Insel is an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The author wishes to thank David Swanson of the Continental Grain Company for his assistance in the early stages of this study.
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