How Farm Subsidies Harm Taxpayers, Consumers, and Farmers, Too

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by Brian M. Riedl

Click here for a chart showing Top 10 Urban ‘Farmers’

This year’s expiration of federal agriculture policies gives Congress an important opportunity to take a fresh look at the $25 billion spent annually on farm subsidies. Current farm policies are so poorly designed that they actually worsen the conditions they claim to solve. For example:

  • Farm subsidies are intended to alleviate farmer poverty, but the majority of subsidies go to com­mercial farms with average incomes of $200,000 and net worths of nearly $2 million.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to raise farmer incomes by remedying low crop prices. Instead, they promote overproduction and therefore lower prices further.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to help struggling family farmers. Instead, they harm them by exclud­ing them from most subsidies, financing the con­solidation of family farms, and raising land values to levels that prevent young people from entering farming.
  • Farm subsidies are intended to be consumer-friendly and taxpayer-friendly. Instead, they cost Americans billions each year in higher taxes and higher food costs.

Lawmakers would be hard-pressed to enact a set of policies that are more destructive to farmers, taxpay­ers, and consumers than the current farm policies. For these and other reasons, organizations represent­ing taxpayers, consumers, environmentalists, inter­national trade, Third World countries, and even farmers themselves have united around the shared conclusion that the current farm subsidy system is failing and in dire need of reform during this year’s reauthorization.

A Solution Seeking a Problem

Before delving into the minutiae of farm policy, lawmakers should first determine what subsidies are intended to accomplish. When President Frank­lin D. Roosevelt introduced farm subsidies in the 1930s, Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace called them “a temporary solution to deal with an emergency.”[1] That emergency was the collapsing farm incomes that afflicted the 25 percent of the population living on farms.

Today, farmers account for just 1 percent of the population, and farm household incomes are well above the national average, making the orig­inal justification irrelevant. What modern market failure or social problem is solved by farm pro­grams today? Subsidy advocates offer five flawed justifications.

Myth #1: Farmer poverty.

This is the most common-and provably incor­rect-justification. The average farm household earns $81,420 annually (29 percent above the national average); has a net worth of $838,875 (more than eight times the national average); and is located in a rural area with a low cost of living.[2] The farm industry’s current 11.4 percent debt-to-asset ratio is the lowest ever measured and helps to explain why farms fail at only one-sixth the rate of non-farm businesses.[3]

Overall, net farm income totaled $279 billion between 2003 and 2006-the highest four-year total ever.[4] The farm economy is thriving, and farmer incomes are soaring.


Furthermore, farm subsidy formulas are designed to benefit large agribusinesses rather than family farmers. Most farm subsidies are distributed to commercial farmers, who have an average income of $199,975 and an average net worth of just under $2 million.[5] If farm subsidies were really about alleviating farmer poverty, lawmakers could guarantee every full-time farmer an income of 185 percent of the federal level ($38,203 for a family of four) for just over $4 billion annually-one-sixth of the current cost of farm subsidies.[6]

Myth #2: Crop disaster compensation.

While farming can be very profitable, farmers are always one weather disaster away from losing their crops, but this risk can be handled with basic crop insurance rather than with expensive annual gov­ernment subsidies. Washington does not address homeowners’ risks by writing each family an annual check regardless of whether or not their homes have been damaged.

Giving farmers $25 billion in annual subsidies regardless of whether or not their crops have been damaged is no more logical. Crop insurance mar­kets, as well as futures and options markets, can bal­ance good and bad years in a way that is cost-neutral over the long run.

Myth #3: Maintaining a cheap and stable food supply.

Some contend that food markets would fluctu­ate wildly without farm subsidies. In reality, food prices of both subsidized and unsubsidized crops are relatively stable. Given that the percentage of family budgets spent on food has dropped from 25 percent to 10 percent since 1933, any potential price instability would have an increasingly small impact on family budgets.[7] Even if price stabiliza­tion was necessary, price support programs have largely been replaced by commodity subsidies that stimulate overproduction rather than stabi­lize prices.

Nor do farm subsidies contribute to lower food costs. Two-thirds of food production is unsubsi­dized and thus relatively unaffected by subsidies. Of the remaining one-third, price reductions caused by crop subsidies are balanced by conservation pro­grams that raise prices. Furthermore, food prices are based not only on crop prices, but also on food processing, transportation, and marketing costs. Bruce Babcock, professor of economics at Iowa State University, has calculated that eliminating farm subsidies would have virtually no effect on food prices.[8]

Myth #4: National security.

Proponents contend that without subsidies, American farm products would be replaced by imports, leaving the United States dangerously dependent on foreigners for food. However, the United States currently grows more food than it needs to feed itself and exports a quarter of its pro­duction.[9] The lack of subsidies has not driven all beef, poultry, pork, fruit, and vegetable production out of America, nor would it drive away production of currently subsidized crops.

Myth #5: Other countries’ agricultural policies.

Europe and Japan’s farm subsidies bring Ameri­can consumers food at below-market prices. Rather than enact trade barriers to prevent this, Americans should welcome the cheap imports and allow farm­ers to focus on producing the crops in which the United States has a comparative advantage. Responding with U.S. subsidies and trade barriers has the net effect of raising prices for American con­sumers and thereby limiting any progress in free-trade negotiations. Australia largely eliminated its farm subsidies in the 1970s, and after a brief adjust­ment, its farm economy flourished. New Zealand implemented a similar policy in the 1980s with the same result.[10]

Two-thirds of all farm production-including fruit, vegetables, beef, and poultry-thrives despite being ineligible for farm subsidies.[11] If any of the five justifications were valid, these farmers would be impoverished, near bankruptcy, or replaced by imports, and both the supplies and prices of fruit, vegetables, beef, and poultry would fluctuate wildly. Clearly, this has not happened. In this controlled experiment comparing subsidized and unsubsi­dized crops, the doomsday scenarios described above have not occurred for unsubsidized crops.

The most logical explanation for the persistence of farm subsidies is simple politics. Eliminating a government program is nearly impossible because recipients form interest groups that relentlessly defend their handouts. The public paying the costs is too busy going about their lives to challenge each wasteful program. Furthermore, supporters of farm subsidies often repeat the five justifications, espe­cially the myth that these policies aid struggling family farmers. The difference between perception and reality in farm policy is large.

How Farm Subsidies Lack Economic Sense

Farm subsidies serve no legitimate public pur­pose. Worse, they harm the farm economy. This section explains both how farm subsidies work and the economic incoherence embedded in U.S. farm policy. (See also the accompanying text box, “How Farm Subsidies Are Calculated.”)

The Main Commodity Programs. Farm policy is extraordinarily complex. This complexity conve­niently insulates the farm policymaking process within a small group of lawmakers and interest groups who specialize in the details.

Subsidy eligibility is based on the crop. More than 90 percent of all subsidies go to just five crops-wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, and rice- while the vast majority of crops are ineligible for subsidies. Once eligibility is established, subsidies are paid per amount of the crop produced, so the largest farms automatically receive the largest checks.

Subsidies are also quite duplicative. The names of the three different commodity subsidies do not adequately describe their purposes:

  • Marketing loan program. Despite being called a “loan,” this program has the net effect of reim­bursing farmers for the difference between a crop’s market price and the minimum level that Congress sets every five to six years.[12]
  • Fixed payments. Fixed payments are given to farmers based on their farms’ historical produc­tion and are unrelated to actual production.
  • Countercyclical payments. This program func­tions somewhat similarly to the marketing loan program by subsidizing farmers up to a govern­ment-set target price. This rate is higher than the marketing loan rate and therefore represents an additional subsidy.

For farmers who grow the subsidized crop, these policies have the net effect of subsidizing them up from their crop’s market price to its countercyclical price rate, or even higher when the market price is above the countercyclical rate and they receive fixed payments.

Remedying Low Prices with Lower Prices. Farm policy is supposed to help farmers recover income lost because of low crop prices. However, farmers can increase their subsidies by planting additional acres, which increases production and drives prices down further, thereby spurring demands for even greater subsidies. In other words, subsidies merely lower prices. This is the policy equivalent of trying to use gasoline to extin­guish a fire.

When the 1996 farm bill increased the market­ing loan rate of soybeans from $4.92 to $5.26 per bushel (which meant larger subsidies), farmers responded by planting an additional 8 million acres of soybeans, which contributed to the 33 percent decline in soybean prices over the next two years.[13] Instead of alleviating low soybean prices, the new subsidies accelerated their fall at considerable tax­payer expense. Even the U.S. Department of Agri­culture (USDA) admits that subsidy increases have induced farmers to plant millions of new acres of wheat, soybeans, cotton, and corn.[14]

In a free market, low prices serve as an important signal that supply has exceeded consumer demand and that production should shift accordingly. By shielding farmers from low market prices, farm sub­sidies induce farmers to grow whatever government will subsidize, not what consumers really want. Stephen Houston Jr., a Georgia cotton farmer, recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We’re just playing a game. [Market] prices don’t have anything to do with what we’re doing. We’re just looking at the government payments.”[15]

Contradictory Policies. After handing out com­modity subsidies that pay farmers to plant more crops, Washington then turns around and pays other farmers not to farm 40 million acres of crop­land each year-the equivalent of idling every farm in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. The Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to sign 10-year contracts pledging not to farm their land, is often promoted as supporting environmen­tal stewardship. In reality, removing farmland to raise crop prices has been the program’s central long-term justification. Paying some farmers to plant more crops and others to plant fewer crops simply makes no sense.

Ignoring Yields. The illogic does not end there. Businesses calculate their revenues by multiplying the product’s price by the quantity sold. Similarly, farmers calculate per-acre revenues by multiplying the crop price by the yield (crop volume per acre). However, farm subsidy formulas focus only on crop prices and simply plug in a historical yield measure for the quantity.

This makes little sense. Revenues depend as much on the quantity sold as on the price, and these two variables often move in opposite direc­tions. In agriculture, this leads to one of two com­mon scenarios:

  • Surging yields flood the market with crops and cause prices to drop. Total revenues may increase, yet farmers still receive large subsidies simply because the price fell.
  • Falling yields lead to crop shortages, pushing up prices. Total revenues may decline sharply, but farmers do not receive subsidies because Wash­ington focuses only on the price increase and assumes that farmers are thriving.

These scenarios are not merely theoretical. The American Farmland Trust has observed that a large drought in 2002 cut many Midwest corn farmers’ yields in half, but many farmers did not receive sub­sidies because prices did not fall. The opposite situ­ation occurred in 2005 when very large corn yields flooded the market, driving down corn prices and inducing large corn subsidies despite healthy farm revenues.[16] Consequently, Washington often wastes taxpayer dollars by subsidizing farmers when they need it the least.

Subsidizing Both Crop Insurance and Disaster Aid. In 2000, Washington tripled crop insurance subsidies in an effort to eliminate the need for farm disaster payments. The budget-busting 2002 farm bill was also promoted as being large enough to reduce the need for disaster payments.

Yet even with generous farm programs and sub­sidized crop insurance, Congress has passed a disas­ter aid bill every year since 2000 at a total cost of $40 billion.[17] Congress has even drafted legislation offering disaster aid to farmers who refuse to pur­chase crop insurance at taxpayer-financed dis­counts. With Congress continuing to pass large disaster aid packages, what crop insurance subsi­dies are really funding is unclear.

The federal crop insurance program currently subsidizes 60 percent of all premiums for the 242 million acres that farmers have enrolled in the pro­gram. It is run by 16 private firms that accept fed­eral subsidies but must charge the prices set by Washington. Recently, an insurer that dared to offer farmers a discount was upbraided at a congressional hearing, and Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) successfully authored legislation to prohibit federal subsidies for that plan.[18]

The program seems to have been designed to aid insurance companies and harm taxpayers. Insurers are allowed to pass high-risk policies on to the gov­ernment while keeping for themselves the low-risk policies that are likely to be profitable. Conse­quently, since 1998, the participating companies have earned $3.1 billion in profits, while Washing­ton has lost $1.5 billion. Additionally, since 1998, Washington has paid nearly $20 billion in premium subsidies and more than $6 billion to cover the insurance companies’ administrative costs.

All in all, the crop insurance program spends $3.34 for every $1 in paid claims-and it still has not prevented $40 billion in disaster aid.[19]

Driving Small Farmers out of Business. Farm subsidies are promoted as assistance to family farm­ers. In reality, they finance the demise of family farms and prevent young people from entering farming. Economists estimate that subsidies inflate the value of farmland by 30 percent. High farmland prices make starting a farm prohibitively expensive for younger people, who would also have other expenses, including buying expensive equipment, seeds, and pesticides. With young farmers unable to enter the industry, the average age of farmers has increased to 55.[20]

Because agribusinesses are already the most profitable, they often use their enormous farm sub­sidies to buy out smaller family farms. In what has been called the “plantation effect,” family farms with less than 100 acres are being bought out by larger agribusinesses, which then convert them into tenant farms. Three-quarters of rice farms have already become tenant farms, and other types of farms are trending in that same direction.[21] Since 1945, the number of farms has dropped by two-thirds, and the average farm size has more than doubled to 441 acres.[22]

This consolidation is not necessarily harmful and may improve efficiency. Large agribusinesses are not villainous. They often succeed because they can produce large quantities of food at low prices. Fur­thermore, the blame for the tilted distribution of farm subsidies lies with Congress, which writes the laws, rather than with the agribusinesses that cash the checks that they receive because of those laws.

Nevertheless, taxpayers should not be required to finance this consolidation through farm subsi­dies. By raising land values and financing consolida­tion, farm subsidies drive out existing small farmers and prevent new farmers from entering the industry.

The Scandalous Distribution of Farm Subsidies

One can imagine the result if Washington tried to solve poverty by creating a welfare program that applied only to workers in the fast food, cleaning, and retail industries. Everyone in those occupations would receive a government check, with the richest executives receiving the largest checks and the poorest workers receiving the smallest. Workers in other industries would receive nothing, no matter how poor they were.

Obviously, such a policy would be nonsense, yet this exemplifies how farm subsidies are distributed. The government’s solution to alleged farmer poverty is to subsidize growers of wheat, cotton, corn, soy­beans, and rice while giving no subsidies to produc­ers of fruit, vegetables, beef, poultry, and livestock. Because subsidies are paid per acre, the largest and most profitable farms receive the largest subsidies, while family farms receive next to nothing.

Thus, a large, profitable rice corporation can receive millions while a family vegetable farmer receives nothing. Overall, farm subsidies are distrib­uted with little regard to merit or need.

Corporate Welfare. Farm subsidies are pro­moted as helping struggling farmers, but Washing­ton could guarantee every full-time farmer an income of nearly $40,000 for just $4 billion annu­ally. Instead, farm policy is designed to aid corpo­rate agribusinesses. Among farmers eligible for subsidies, just 10 percent of recipients collect 73 percent of the subsidies-an average of $91,000 per farm. (See Chart 3.) By contrast, the average subsidy granted to the bottom 80 percent of recipients is less than $3,000 annually.[23]

According to the USDA, the majority of farm subsidies are distributed to commercial farms, which have an average household income of $199,975 and a net worth of just under $2 mil­lion.[24] Commercial farms are also among those that need subsidies the least because they are the most efficient. Former U.S. Farm Bureau President Dean Kleckner writes that the top quarter of corn farmers (usually agribusinesses with economies of scale) can produce a bushel of corn 68 percent cheaper than the bottom quarter of farms can.[25]

Multiplying this larger profit margin by their substantially larger production volume shows how large agribusinesses can be enormously profitable. Yet these agribusinesses, not small family farms, receive most of the subsidies, making farm subsi­dies America’s largest corporate welfare program. (See Table 1.)

That is not all. Farm subsidies over the past decade have also been distributed to:

  • Fortune 500 companies, such as John Hancock Life Insurance ($2,849,799); International Paper ($1,183,893); Westvaco ($534,210); and ChevronTexaco ($446,914).
  • Celebrity “hobby farmers” such as David Rock­efeller ($553,782); Ted Turner ($206,948); and Scottie Pippen ($210,520).
  • Members of Congress, who vote on farm subsidies, such as Senator Charles Grassley (R- IA, $225,041); Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR, $45,400, plus a 25 percent ownership in three firms that received $2,114,622); and Represen­tative John Salazar (D-CO, $161,084).[26]


Payment limits do exist on paper. Subsidies are restricted to farmers with incomes below $2.5 mil­lion, and an individual’s subsidy may not exceed $180,000 per farm or $360,000 for up to three farms. However, an entire industry of lawyers exploits loop­holes, rendering these limits meaningless.

Farmers can simply divide their farms into numerous separate entities and then collect subsi­dies for each farm. For example, Tyler Farms in Arkansas has collected $37 million in farm subsi­dies since 1996 by dividing itself into 66 legally separate corporations to maximize its farm subsidies.[27] Other farmers evade payment limits by sign­ing up family members, such as the Georgia farmer who reportedly col­lected thousands in additional subsi­dies by signing up his two-year-old daughter as an additional farmer, making her eligible for up to $180,000. As Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs has con­cluded, “We have no [payment] limits today.”[28]

Eligibility Restricted to a Few Crops. Only one-third of the $240 billion in annual farm production is eligible for farm subsidies. Five crops-wheat, cotton, corn, soy­beans, and rice-receive more than 90 percent of all farm subsidies. Fruits, vegetables, livestock, and poultry, which comprise two-thirds of all farm pro­duction, are generally not subsidized at all.[29] This is important for two reasons.

First, those who assert that the absence of farm subsidies would cause massive poverty, rapid price fluctuations, and the eventual demise of the agricul­tural industry have not persuasively explained why the two-thirds of the industry that operates without subsidies has experienced none of these problems.

Second, those who assert that farm subsidies are necessary to alleviate farmer poverty have not explained why Washington should favor one crop over another.

Farm Subsidies for Suburban Backyards. In 1996, lawmakers noticed that farm subsidies were only encouraging more planting and thereby fur­ther lowering prices, so they created a fixed pay­ments subsidy that would pay farmers based on what had been grown on the land historically with­out obligating them to continue planting that crop. While designed with positive intentions to reduce market distortions, these fixed payments have ended up subsidizing land that is no longer used for farming. In fact, some homeowners are now collect­ing subsidies for the grass in their backyards.

A recent Washington Post investigation discovered 75 acres of Texas farmland that had been converted into a housing development. Today, the homeown­ers on these properties (which are worth well over $300,000 each) are eligible for fixed payments for the lawn in their backyards because of its “historical rice production.” Residents never asked for these subsidies and have even stated that as non-farmers they do not want the government mailing them checks.[30] Over the past 25 years, rice plantings in Texas have plummeted from 600,000 acres to 200,000, in part because people can now collect generous rice subsidies without planting rice. If Washington insists on subsidizing farming, subsi­dizing actual farmland rather than residential neigh­borhoods that were once farmland would make more sense.

Compensation Not Based on Actual Sale Prices. As explained in the text box, the marketing loan program (despite the “loan” misnomer) effec­tively pays farmers whenever crop prices fall below a government-set minimum. Amazingly, farmers are not compensated for the actual price at which they sell their crops. Instead, they can pick the market price on any day of the year and, even if they do not sell their crops at that market price, receive a sub­sidy based on it.

For example, in 2005, the marketing loan rate for corn in DeKalb County, Illinois, was $1.98 per bushel. In September, the market price fell to $1.52 per bushel, and local farmers walked into the local USDA field office and received a payment of $0.46 per bushel. The following January, when they finally sold their corn, the price had risen to $2.60 per bushel, well above the government-set minimum. The federal policy allowed farmers to keep the sub­sidies as compensation for a low market price at which they never actually sold their crops. The amounts can be substantial: DeKalb County farmer Roger Richardson received an extra $75,000 sub­sidy for crops that grossed $500,000.[31]

These are not isolated incidents. In 2006, national corn prices were only $0.05 below the $1.95 marketing loan rate. Nonetheless, corn farm­ers received an average marketing loan subsidy of $0.44 per bushel.[32] President Bush has proposed addressing this loophole by requiring that monthly average crop prices-rather than daily prices- become the basis for determining marketing loan subsidies. This would prevent a one-day drop in crop prices from causing a year-long surge in farm subsidies. Unless Congress acts, farmers will con­tinue to be compensated for low prices that never affect them.

Aid for Questionable Disasters. Lawmakers often supplement generous farm subsidies and sub­sidized crop insurance with annual disaster assis­tance packages. The Washington Post discovered that the USDA encourages disaster declarations for coun­ties without disasters and distributes disaster aid to farmers without requiring proof of any disaster.

Specifically, when the Livestock Compensation Program operated in 2002 and 2003 to compensate farmers for a drought, the majority of payments went to farmers in areas with either moderate drought or none at all. The USDA reportedly urged state and county officials to find anything that could be interpreted as a disaster and use it to qualify the county’s farmers for disaster aid. Consequently, more than 2,000 of the nation’s 3,141 counties were declared agriculture “disasters,” including:

  • Whatcom County, Washington, for a distant earthquake that registered only 3 on the local Richter scale and caused no reported damage.
  • All 254 counties in Texas for “farm disasters,” such as a storm two years earlier and the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion. This prompted a local farmer to tell reporters, “the livestock pro­gram is a joke, we had no losses, I don’t know what Congress is thinking sometimes.”
  • Fifty-three of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, many for a small storm that occurred two years earlier. This prompted local farmers to call the disaster aid an unjustified “waste of money.”

Nor were the individual farmers required to prove any losses. Washington simply sent them disaster assistance checks based on the number of livestock that they owned. In other words, disaster aid was almost completely disconnected from actual disasters.[33]

Livestock disaster assistance is not the only example of misdirected disaster aid. When sweet potatoes became eligible for crop insurance, plant­ing quadrupled, but crop failures surged. Farmers were purposely growing sweet potato crops on unsuited land and skimping on all production costs simply to collect generous crop insurance and disas­ter aid-a practice known as “farming your insur­ance.” Accordingly, the sweet potato insurance program was paying out $16 in insurance claims for every $1 paid in premiums before Congress fixed it in 2005.[34] It is reasonable to assume that this prac­tice continues to some degree in other crops.

The Overall Impact of Farm Policy

Although farm policies serve no legitimate pur­pose, they have profoundly negative effects on tax­payers, consumers, and small farmers, including:

  • Higher prices. James Bovard once wrote, “For almost every farm program, there is another equal but opposite farm program or provi­sion.”[35] Commodity subsidies encourage over­production and therefore lower prices. The Conservation Reserve Program encourages underproduction and thereby raises prices. Tar­iffs raise import prices. Export subsidies lower export prices. Price supports triple the price of sugar and raise the price of milk. Calculating the net effect of these contradictory programs, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that U.S. farm policy raises food prices enough to cost consumers an extra $12 billion annually-in effect, an average annual food tax of $104 per household.[36]
  • High taxes. As the farm economy booms, Con­gress is expanding farm subsidies. After averag­ing less than $14 billion per year during the 1990s, annual farm subsidies have topped $25 billion in the current decade since passage of the 2002 farm bill, the most expensive farm bill in American history. All federal spending must eventually be funded by taxes. Thus, these sub­sidies cost the average household $216 in annual taxes in addition to $104 in higher food prices.
  • No added rural economic growth. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City con­cluded that farm subsidies do not promote rural economic growth. Between 1992 and 2002, the vast majority of the 783 “farm dependent” coun­ties experienced job growth below the national average. In fact, more of these counties suffered outright job losses than experienced job growth exceeding the national average.[37] While critics can argue that growth would have been worse without subsidies, these policies are clearly not creating new growth centers. Farm subsidies are likely funding farm consolidations, which in turn are reducing employment on farms and in related industries.
  • Small farmers driven out of business. Small family farmers are generally not eligible for sig­nificant levels of farm subsidies. Furthermore, subsidies to large commercial farms harm small farmers by (1) reducing crop prices[38] and, there­fore, farmer incomes; (2) raising the prices of farmland, thereby preventing family farmers from expanding; and (3) subsidizing agribusi­ness buyouts of family farms. Small farmers receive virtually none of the subsidies, but they must endure the market distortions and financial pain caused by these policies.
  • Less trade. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Ber­nanke has stated that “the increase in trade since World War II has boosted U.S. annual incomes on the order of $10,000 per household” and that “removing all remaining barriers to trade would raise U.S. incomes anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 per household.” Yet massive tariffs and import restrictions raise food prices and make the American economy less productive. Bring­ing free trade to agriculture would also make free-trade agreements in other industries much more likely.[39]


Conclusion

If Congress takes the path of least resistance and extends current farm policies for another five years, it will have surrendered an enormous opportunity for reform. Most debates over federal programs force lawmakers to balance a program’s social bene­fits with the costs of financing it, but current U.S. farm policies serve no legitimate purpose. They bur­den American families with higher taxes and higher food prices. They harm small farmers by excluding them from subsidies, raising land prices, and financing farm consolidation. They increase trade barriers that reduce incomes in America and in lesser-developed countries. They are falsely pro­moted as saving the family farm and protecting the food supply. In reality, they are America’s largest cor­porate welfare program.

This year’s farm bill debate will test whether Congress is serious about reform or will continue business as usual by pandering to special-interest groups that are working to protect their federal lar­gesse. Congress and President Bush should take a more sensible approach to farm policy this year. Instead of rubberstamping the status quo, they should return to the market-based approach embodied in the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act.

Click here for other charts (Powerpoint)

Brian M. Riedl is Grover M. Hermann Fellow in Federal Budgetary Affairs in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Ian Hinsdale, a former Heritage Foundation intern, contributed to this paper.


[1] Henry Wallace, cited in Oxfam America, “A Vision for the 2007 Farm Bill,” 2007, at www.oxfamamerica.org/resources/files/OA-Fairness_in_the_Fields.pdf (June 4, 2007).

[2 ]Ted Covey et al., “Agriculture Income and Finance Outlook,” AIS-84, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November 2006, pp. 40 and 48, at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/AIS/
AIS-11-30-2006.pdf
(June 4, 2007).

[3] Jerome M. Stam, Daniel L. Milkove, and George B. Wallace, “Indicators of Financial Stress in Agriculture Reported by Agri­cultural Banks, 1982-99,” AIS-74, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2000, p. 48, and Covey et al., “Agriculture Income and Finance Outlook,” p. 38.

[4] Council of Economic Advisers, Economic Report of the President (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007), p. 342, Table B-97, at www.gpoaccess.gov/eop/2007/2007_erp.pdf (June 4, 2007).

[5] Covey et al., “Agriculture Income and Finance Outlook,” pp. 40, 48, and 63. Net worth data consist of weighted averages of large and very large farms’ net worths.

[6] U.S. Department of Agriculture, “A Safety Net for Farm Households,” Agriculture Outlook, January-February 2000, pp. 19-24. The authors estimated a cost of $7.8 billion when including everyone who reports any farm income, including “hobby farmers” who have other full-time jobs. Restricting their data to full-time farmers, defined as those working on lower-sales, higher-sales, and large family farms and the fraction of limited-resource farms that are also full-time, the total cost adds up to approximately $4 billion. The eligibility threshold for several federal income-assistance programs, such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, is 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

[7] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, “Food Expenditures by Families and Individuals as a Share of Disposable Personal Income data,” Table 7, at www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/CPIFoodAndExpenditures/Data/table7.htm (June 4, 2007).

[8] Bruce Babcock, “Money for Nothing: Acreage and Price Impacts of U.S. Commodity Policy for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, Cotton, and Rice,” in American Enterprise Institute, The 2007 Farm Bill and Beyond (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 2007), pp. 41-45, at www.aei.org/docLib/20070516_Summary.pdf (June 4, 2007).

[9] The U.S. runs a trade surplus in agriculture. See Economic Research Service, “Value of U.S. Trade-Agricultural, Nonagricultural, and Total-and Trade Balance, by Fiscal Year,” May 2007, at www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FATUS/DATA/fynonag.xls (June 4, 2007).

[10] Julian Alston, “Lessons from Agricultural Policy Reform in Other Countries,” in American Enterprise Institute, The 2007 Farm Bill and Beyond, pp. 83-86.

[11] Economic Research Service, “Farm Income and Costs: Farm Sector Income Forecast,” February 14, 2007, at www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/farmincome/data/cr_t3.htm (June 4, 2007).

[12] The marketing loan program can operate in different ways. It can be a loan that must be partially repaid later in the year (called a marketing loan gain), or the benefit can be paid in a lump sum as a subsidy (called a loan deficiency payment). Despite these distinctions, the net effect is to subsidize farmers up to the marketing loan rate level.

[13] University of Tennessee, Agricultural Policy Analysis Center, “An Analytical Database of U.S. Agriculture, 1950-1999,” 2001, Tables 7.1a and 7.2a.

[14] Paul C. Westcott and C. Edwin Young, “U.S. Farm Program Benefits: Links to Planting Decisions and Agricultural Markets,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Outlook, October 2000, pp. 12-13.

[15] Dan Chapman, Ken Foskett, and Megan Clarke, “How Your Tax Dollars Prop Up Big Growers and Squeeze the Little Guy,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 1, 2006.

[16] American Farmland Trust, “Farm and Food Policy for All-Farmers, Citizens and Communities,” 2007.

[17] Ralph Chite, “Emergency Funding for Agriculture: A Brief History of Supplemental Appropriations, FY 1989-FY 2006,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated July 3, 2006. Chite mentions a total of $36.5 billion, and approximately $3.5 billion was added in 2007.

[18] Gilbert Gaul, Dan Morgan, and Sarah Cohen, “Crop Insurers Pile Up Record Profits,” The Washington Post, October 16, 2006.

[19] Ibid. The article includes a graphic showing gains and losses since 1998. The cost of premium subsidies and administrative costs since 1998 were calculated using the 1998-2005 totals listed in the article and then projecting forward for the 2006 and 2007 totals.

[20] John Frydenlund, “Farm Subsidies: Myth and Reality,” Citizens Against Government Waste Issue Brief No. 1, April 3, 2007, at www.cagw.org/site/DocServer/2007_Farm_Bill-_
Issue_Brief_1.pdf?docID=2121
(June 4, 2007).

[21] Elizabeth Becker, “Land Rich in Subsidies, and Poor in Much Else,” The New York Times, January 22, 2002, p. A14.

[22] Council of Economic Advisers, Economic Report of the President, p. 175.

[23] See Environmental Working Group, Farm Subsidy Database, at http://www.ewg.org/farm (June 4, 2007).

[24] Covey et al., “Agriculture Income and Finance Outlook,” pp. 40, 48, and 63.

[25] Dean Kleckner, “Farm Subsidies Are Not Saving the Family Farm,” updated manuscript. Copy available upon request.

[26] For a list of subsidy totals, see Environmental Working Group, Farm Subsidy Database. Corporate totals include subsidiaries. Subsidies for lawmakers are described in detail in Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D., “How to Discourage Conflicts of Interest in the Federal Agriculture Subsidy Programs,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, forthcoming.

[27] John Lancaster, “More Subsidy Money Going to Fewer Farms,” The Washington Post, January 24, 2002, and Environmental Working Group, Farm Subsidy Database.

[28] Dan Chapman, Ken Foskett, and Megan Clarke, “How Savvy Growers Can Double, or Triple, Subsidy Dollars,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 2, 2006.

[29] Economic Research Service, “Farm Income and Costs.”

[30] Dan Morgan, Gilbert Gaul, and Sarah Cohen, “Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don’t Farm,” The Washington Post, July 2, 2006.

[31] Dan Morgan, Sarah Cohen, and Gilbert Gaul, “Growers Reap Benefits Even in Good Years,” The Washington Post, July 3, 2006.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Gilbert Gaul, Dan Morgan, and Sarah Cohen, “No Drought Required for Federal Drought Aid,” The Washington Post, July 18, 2006.

[34] Gilbert Gaul, “Farming Your Insurance,” The Washington Post, October 15, 2006.

[35] James Bovard, “Farm Bill Follies of 1990,” Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 135, July 12, 1990, at www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa135.html (June 8, 2007).

[36] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Agricultural Policies in OECD Countries: At a Glance (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2006), p. 69, Table 2.12. The 2003-2005 average annual transfer from consumers was $12.285 billion.

[37] Mark Drabenstott, “Do Farm Payments Promote Rural Economic Growth?” Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Center for the Study of Rural America, The Main Street Economist, March 2005, at www.kc.frb.org/RegionalAffairs/mainstreet/MSE_0305.pdf (June 4, 2007).

[38] Although conservation programs raise prices, it is still clear that commodity subsidies reduce prices relative to what they would be with only conservation programs.

[39] Ben S. Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, “Embracing the Challenge of Free Trade: Competing and Prospering in a Global Economy,” remarks at the Montana Economic Development Summit 2007, Butte, Montana, May 1, 2007, at www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/Speeches/2007/
20070501/default.htm
(June 4, 2007).

PRECOLUMBIAN MUSLIMS IN THE AMERICAS

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PRECOLUMBIAN MUSLIMS IN THE AMERICAS
By: Dr. Youssef Mroueh

Preparatory Commitee for International Festivals to celebrate the millennium of the Muslims arrival to the Americas ( 996-1996 CE )

INTRODUCTION

Numerous evidence suggests that Muslims from Spain and West Africa arrived to the Americas at least five centuries before Columbus. It is recorded,for example, that in the mid-tenth century, during the rule of the Ummayyed Caliph Abdul-Rahman III (929-961 CE), Muslims of African origin sailed westward from the Spanish port of DELBA (Palos) into the “Ocean of darkness and fog”. They returned after a long absence with much booty from a “strange and curious land”. It is evident that people of Muslim origin are known to have accompanied Columbus and subsequent Spanish explorers to the New World.

The last Muslim stronghold in Spain, Granada, fell to the Christians in 1492 CE, just before the Spanish inquisition was launched. To escape persecution, many non-Christians fled or embraced Catholicism. At least two documents imply the presence of Muslims in Spanish America before 1550 CE. Despite the fact that a decree issued in 1539 CE by Charles V, king of Spain, forbade the grandsons of Muslims who had been burned at the stake to migrate to the West Indies. This decree was ratified in 1543 CE, and an order for the expulsion of all Muslims from overseas Spanish territories was subsequently published. Many references on the Muslim arrival to Americas are available. They are summarized in the following

A: HISTORIC DOCUMENTS:

1. A Muslim historian and geographer ABUL-HASSAN ALI IBN AL-HUSSAIN
AL-MASUDI (871-957 CE) wrote in his book Muruj adh-dhahab wa maadin aljawhar (The meadows of gold and quarries of jewels) that during the rule of the Muslim caliph of Spain Abdullah Ibn Mohammad(888-912 CE), a Muslim navigator, Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, from Cortoba, Spain sailed from Delba (Palos) in 889 CE, crossed the Atlantic, reached an unknown territory (ard majhoola) and returned with fabulous treasures. In Al-Masudi’s map of the world there is a large area in the ocean of darkness and fog which he referred to as the unknown territory (Americas). (1)

2. A Muslim historian ABU BAKR IBN UMAR AL-GUTIYYA narrated that during the reign of the Muslim caliph of Spain, Hisham II (976-1009CE), another Muslim navigator, Ibn Farrukh, from Granada, sailed from Kadesh (February 999CE) into the Atlantic, landed in Gando (Great Canary islands) visiting King Guanariga, and continued westward where he saw and named two islands, Capraria and Pluitana. He arrived back in Spain in May 999 CE. (2)

3. Columbus sailed from Palos (Delba), Spain. He was bound for GOMERA (Canary Islands)-Gomera is an Arabic word meaning ‘small firebrand’ – there he fell in love with Beatriz BOBADILLA, daughter of the first captain general of the island (the family name BOBADILLA is derived from the Arab Islamic name ABOU ABDILLA.).Nevertheless, the BOBADILLA clan was not easy to ignore. Another Bobadilla (Francisco) later, as the royal commissioner, put Columbus in chains and transferred him from Santo Dominigo back to
Spain (November 1500 CE). The BOBADILLA family was related to the ABBADID dynasty of Seville (1031-1091 CE). On October 12, 1492 CE, Columbus landed on a little island in the Bahamas that was called GUANAHANI by the natives. Renamed SAN SALVADOR by Columbus. GUANAHANI is derived from Mandinka and modified Arabic words. GUANA (IKHWANA) means ‘brothers’ and HANI is an Arabic name.Therefore the original name of the island was ‘HANI BROTHERS’. (11) Ferdinand Columbus, the son of Christopher, wrote about the blacks seen by his father in Handuras: “The people who live farther east of Pointe Cavinas, as far as Cape Gracios a Dios, are almost black in color.” At the same time, in this very same region, lived a tribe of Muslim natives known as ALMAMY. In Mandinka and Arabic languages, ALMAMY was the designation of “AL-IMAM”or “AL-IMAMU”, the leader of the prayer,or in some cases, the chief of the community,and/or a member of the Imami Muslim community. (12)

NOTES

4. A renowned American historian and linguist, LEO WEINER of Harvard University, in his book, AFRICA AND THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA (1920) wrote that Columbus was well aware of the Mandinka presence in the New World and that the West African Muslims had spread throughout the Caribbean, Central, South and North American territories, including Canada,where they were trading and intermarrying with the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians. (13)

B: GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS:

1. The famous Muslim geographer and cartographer AL-SHARIF AL-IDRISI (1099- 1166CE) wrote in his famous book Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq (Excursion of the longing one in crossing horizons) that a group of seafarers (from North Africa) sailed into the sea of darkness and fog (The Atlantic ocean) from Lisbon (Portugal), in order to discover what was in it and what extent were its limits. They finally reached an island that had people and cultivation…on the fourth day, a translator spoke to them in the Arabic language. (3)

2. The Muslim reference books mentioned a well-documented description of a journey across the sea of fog and darkness by Shaikh ZAYN EDDINE ALI BEN FADHEL AL-MAZANDARANI. His journey started from Tarfaya (South Morocco) during the reign of the King Abu-Yacoub Sidi Youssef (1286-1307CE) 6th of the Marinid dynasty, to Green Island in the Caribbean sea in 1291 CE (690 HE). The details of his ocean journey are mentioned in Islamic references, and many Muslim scholars are aware of this recorded historical event..(4)

3. The Muslim historian CHIHAB AD-DINE ABU-L-ABBAS AHMAD BEN FADHL AL-UMARI (1300-1384CE/700-786HE) described in detail the geographical explorations beyond the sea of fog and darkness of Mali’s sultans in his famous book Massaalik al-absaar fi mamaalik al-amsaar (The pathways of sights in the provinces of kingdoms). (5)

4. Sultan MANSU KANKAN MUSA (1312-1337 CE) was the world renowned Mandinka monarch of the West African Islamic empire of Mali. While travelling to Makkah on his famous Hajj in 1324 CE, he informed the scholars of the Mamluk Bahri sultan court (An-Nasir Nasir Edin Muhammad III-1309-1340 CE) in Cairo, that his brother, sultan Abu Bakari I (1285-1312CE) had undertaken two expeditions into the Atlantic Ocean. When the sultan did not return to Timbuktu from the second voyage of 1311 CE, Mansa Musa became sultan of the empire. (6)

5. Columbus and early Spanish and portuguese explorers were able to voyage across the Atlantic (a distance of 2400 Km’s) thanks to Muslim geographical and navigational information. In particular maps made by Muslim traders, including AL-MASUDI (871-957CE) in his book Akhbar az-zaman (History of the world) which is based on material gathered in Africa and Asia (9). As a matter of fact, Columbus had two captain of muslim origin during his first transatlantic voyage: Martin Alonso Pinzon was the captain of the PINTA,and his brother Vicente Yanez Pinzon was the captain of the NINA. They were wealthy, expert ship outfitters who helped organize the Columbus expedition and prepared the flagship, SANTA MARIA. They did this at their own expense for both commercial and political reasons. The PINZON family was related to ABUZAYAN MUHAMMAD III (1362-66 CE), the Moroccan sultan of the Marinid dynasty (1196-1465CE). (10)

C: ARABIC ( ISLAMIC ) INSCRIPTIONS:

1. Anthropologists have proven that the Mandinkos under Mansa Musa’s instructions explored many parts of North America via the Mississippi and other rivers systems. At Four Corners, Arizona, writings show that they even brought elephants from Africa to the
area.(7)

2. Columbus admitted in his papers that on Monday, October 21,1492 CE while his ship was sailing near Gibara on the north-east coast of Cuba, he saw a mosque on top of a beautiful mountain. The ruins of mosques and minarets with inscriptions of Quranic verses have been discovered in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada. (8.0)

3. During his second voyage, Columbus was told by the indians of ESPANOLA (Haiti), that black people had been to the island before his arrival. For proof, they presented Columbus with the spears of these African muslims. These weapons were tipped with a yellow metal that the indians called GUANIN, a word of West African derivation meaning ‘gold alloy’. Oddly enough, it is related to the Arabic word ‘GHINAA’ which means ‘WEALTH’. Columbus brought some GUANINES back to Spain and had them tested. He learned that the metal was 18 parts gold (56.25%), 6 parts silver (18.75%) and 8 parts copper (25%), the same ratio as the metal produced in African metalshops of Guinea. (14)

4. In 1498 CE, on his third voyage to the new world, Columbus landed in Trinidad. Later, he sighted the South American continent, where some of his crew went ashore and found natives using colorful handkerchiefs of symmetrically woven cotton. Columbus noticed that these handkerchiefs resembled the headdresses and loinclothes of Guinea in their colors, style and function. He refered to them as ALMAYZARS. ALMAYZAR is an Arabic word for ‘wrapper’,’cover’,’apron’ and/or ‘skirting’ which was the cloth the Moors (Spanish or North African Muslims) imported from west Africa (Guinea) into Morocco, Spain and Portugal. During this voyage, Columbus was surprised that the married women wore cotton panties (bragas) and he wondered where these natives learned their modesty. Hernan Cortes, Spanish conqueror, described the dress of the Indian women as ‘long veils’ and the dress of Indian men as ‘breechcloth painted in the style of Moorish draperies’. Ferdinand Columbus called the native cotton garments ‘breechclothes of the same design and cloth as the shawls worn by the Moorish women of Granada’. Even the similarity of the children’s hammocks to those found in North Africa was uncanny.(15)

5. Dr. Barry Fell (Harvard University) introduced in his book ‘Saga America-1980’ solid scientific evidence supporting the arrival, centuries before Columbus, of Muslims from North and West Africa. Dr. Fell discovered the existence of the Muslim schools at Valley of Fire, Allan Springs, Logomarsino, Keyhole, Canyon, Washoe and Hickison Summit Pass (Nevada), Mesa Verde (Colorado), Mimbres Valley (New Mexico) and Tipper Canoe(Indiana) dating back to 700-800 CE. Engraved on rocks in the arid western U.S, he found texts, diagrams and charts representing the last surviving fragments of what was once a system of schools – at both an elementary and higher level. The language of instruction was North African Arabic written with old Kufic Arabic scripts. The subjects of instruction included writing, reading, arithmetic, religion, history, geography, mathematics, astronomy and sea navigation. The descendants of the Muslim visitors of North America are members of the present Iroquois, Algonquin, Anasazi, Hohokam and Olmec native people..(16)

6. There are 565 names of places (villages, towns, cities, mountains, lakes, rivers,.. etc. ) in U.S.A. (484) and Canada (81) which derived from Islamic and Arabic roots. These places were originally named by the natives in precolumbian periods. Some of these names carried holy meanings such as: Mecca-720 inhabitants (Indiana), Makkah Indian tribe (Washington), Medina-2100 (Idaho), Medina-8500 (N.Y.), Medina-1100, Hazen-5000 (North Dakota), Medina-17000/Medina-120000 (Ohio), Medina-1100 (Tennessee), Medina-26000 (Texas), Medina-1200 (Ontario), Mahomet-3200 (Illinois), Mona-1000 (Utah), Arva-700 (Ontario)…etc. A careful study of the names of the native Indian tribes revealed that many names are derived from Arab and Islamic roots and origins, i.e. Anasazi, Apache, Arawak, Arikana, Chavin, Cherokee, Cree, Hohokam, Hupa, Hopi, Makkah, Mahigan, Mohawk, Nazca, Zulu, Zuni…etc..

Based on the above historical, geographical and linguistic notes, a call to celebrate the millennium of the Muslim arrival to the Americas, five centuries before Columbus, has been issued to all Muslim nations and communities around the world. We hope that this call will receive complete understanding and attract enough support.

FOOTNOTES:

(1)See ref 4 (2)See ref. 9 (3)See ref. 3 (4)See ref. 1, 2 and 5
(5)See ref. 6 (6)See ref. 14 (7)See ref. 21 and 22 (8)See ref. 15
(9)See ref. 4 (10)See ref. 15 (11)See ref. 15 (12)See ref. 6
(13)See ref. 20 (14)See ref. 16 (15)See ref. 7 (16)See ref. 10 &12

REFERENCES:

1. AGHA HAKIM, AL-MIRZA Riyaadh Al-Ulama(Arabic),Vol.2 P.386/Vol.4 P.175
2. AL-AMEEN, SAYED MOHSIN Aayan Ash-Shia(Arabic),Vol.7 P.158/Vol 8 P.302-3
3. AL-IDRISSI Nuzhat Al-Mushtaq fi Ikhtiraq Al-Afaaq(Arabic)
4. AL-MASUDI Muruj Adh-Dhahab (Arabic), Vol. 1, P. 138
5. AL-ASFAHANI, AR-RAGHIB Adharea Ila Makarim Ash-Shia,Vol.16,P.343
6. CAUVET, GILES Les Berbers de L’Amerique,Paris 1912,P.100-101
7. COLUMBUS, FERDINAND The Life of Admiral Christopher Columbus,Rutgers Univ.Press, 1959, P.232
8. DAVIES, NIGEL Voyagers to the New World,New York 1979
9. ON MANUEL OSUNAY SAVINON Resumen de la Geografia Fisica…,Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1844
10. FELL,BARRY Saga America, New York 1980
11. FELL,BARRY America BC, New York 1976
12. GORDON,CYRUS Before Columbus,New York 1971
13. GYR,DONALD Exploring Rock Art,Santa Barbara 1989
14. HUYGHE,PATRICK Columbus was Last,New York 1992
15. OBREGON ,MAURICIO The Columbus Papers,The Barcelona Letter of 1493,
The Landfall Controversy, and the Indian Guides, McMillan Co.,New York 1991 16. THACHER,JOHN BOYD Christopher Columbus,New York 1950,P.380
17. VAN SETIMA,IVAN African Presence in Early America,New Brunswick,NJ 1987
18. VAN SETIMA,IVAN They Came Before Columbus,New York 1976
19. VON WUTHENAU,ALEX Unexpected Facts in Ancient America,New York 1975
20. WEINER,LEO Africa and the Discovery of America,Philadelphia, 1920,Vol.2 P.365-6
21. WILKINS,H..T. Mysteries of Ancient South America,New York 1974
22. WINTERS,CLYDE AHMAD Islam in Early North and South America,Al-Ittihad,July 1977,P.60

Did Muslims Visit America Before Columbus?

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Did Muslims Visit America Before Columbus?
By Rebecca Fachner, 5-08-06

Is it possible that there were Muslims in the Americas before Columbus? Some claim that Muslims came to America hundreds of years before Columbus arrived in the New World. Are the claims true?

Every elementary school student knows the story of Christopher Columbus; that he set sail from Spain and mistakenly discovered America in 1492, landing on an island in the Caribbean. Columbus encountered native inhabitants of this new world, and thinking that he had landed in India, he called them Indians. While many of the details have been mythologized or fabricated over the ensuing 500 years, Columbus’s expedition represents the first major discovery of the Americas and the first appearance of non-Native Americans. The conventional wisdom is that Columbus ended tens of thousands of years of near-total isolation for the Native Americans. Since the Americas had been initially populated (probably between 13,000 BC and 11,000 BC) there had been no engagement with populations on any other continent, save small ventures by the Norse into Northeastern Canada.

Now some are suggesting that Muslims came to the Americas, possibly as early as the 700s. These researchers argue that Muslims came from Islamic Spain, particularly the port of Delba (Pelos) during the rule of Caliph Abdullah Ibn Mohammed (888-912). A book by a Muslim historian details the story of a Muslim navigator on a journey across the ocean to an unknown land, where they found much treasure. The historian, Abul-Hassan Al-Masudi, added a map of the world to his book, one that contained “a large area in the ocean of darkness and fog (the Atlantic Ocean) which he referred to as the unknown territory (the Americas).

Columbus landed on a small Bahamian island on Oct. 12, 1492. Although Columbus renamed it, the island was called Guanahani by the native Mandinka islanders. Guanahani is believed to be a corruption of two Arabic words, brought to the island by early Muslim visitors who remained in the Caribbean and intermarried with the Native Americans. Guana means brothers and Hani is a traditional Arab name, giving rise to the idea that the island name meant “Hani Brothers.” Nearby in Honduras lived a tribe of natives known as Almamy, a corruption of the Arabic word Al-Imam, person who leads in prayer. Leo Wiener, founder of Harvard’s Department of Slavic Languages, argued in an early 20th century book that these examples were the result of West African Muslims spreading throughout the New World and intermarrying with the various Indian tribes. There are other, equally fragmented, claims about an early Muslim presence in the Americas, all contained in an article published widely on the Internet by Dr. Youssef Mroueh. Dr. Mroueh; a Muslim author, historian of science and radiation control physicist, wrote this article to commemorate a thousand years of Muslim presence in the Americas in 1996.

Mroueh cited an Australian archeologist, Dr. Barry Fell, a marine biologist who claimed to find extensive archeological evidence of a significant Muslim presence in the New World in his book, Saga America. Fell drew parallels between West African peoples and Native Americans in the southwest, including cultural and linguistic similarities, and the existence of Islamic petroglyphs in the southwestern region. In particular, Fell mentioned a carving that he believed was done centuries before Columbus that states in Arabic: “Yasus bin Maria” (Jesus son of Mary), a phrase commonly found in the Koran.

Fell’s claims though have been ridiculed by professional archaeologists. They were enraged by his claims, deriding not only his findings, but his inflexible and rigid presentation of them, without the usual caution that characterizes academic pronouncements. Fell’s methods came into question, as detractors noted: “His claims for scientific rigour might hold for marine biology, but when it comes to archaeological interpretation, he ignored the usual rules of evidence.” (Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Cult and Fringe)

Other claims have been similarly criticized. In 2002 the Middle East Policy Council published the Arab World Studies Notebook, a teachers guide to understanding and teaching students about Arab culture. The text claims that Arab explorers came to America in advance of Columbus, marrying Algonquin Indians whose descendants eventually became tribal chiefs with names like Adbul-Rahim and Abdallah Ibn Malik. The Notebook and its editor, Audrey Shabbas, came under intense fire for failing to provide corroborating evidence. According to the Washington Times, Shabbas and the Council were slow to respond to concerns from various sources. Peter DiGangi, director of Canada’s Algonquin Nation Secretariat calls her claims “outlandish” and says that “nothing in the tribe’s written or oral history support them.”

Another critique came from William Bennetta, professional editor and President of the Textbook League. Bennetta referred to the text’s “flights of pseudohistorical fakery.” Among other issues, he called the Notebook to task for offering no support for its claim that the Americas were seemingly full of Muslims and Muslim descendants when Columbus arrived. He noted that the Notebook does not even name the English explorers who supposedly found the Algonquin chiefs. Bennetta wrote to Shabbas to inquire about some of the unsubstantiated claims in the Notebook, and while he received a reply, “she didn’t send me [Bennetta] any citation. She made some evasive claims about some published ‘works’.”

In an article featured at David Horowitz’s frontpagemag.com in 2004, David Yeagley, adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma, called the Notebook “intellectual genocide on American Indians,” noting that the authors “simply created an Indian story to suit the purposes of the advocacy group, and published it in a school text manual as fact.” Yeagley believed that Shabbas and the other authors were simply trying to gain acceptance for Arabs, further integrating them into American culture by making them ‘native.’ Shabbas also came under fire from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which published a report called “The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America’s History Teachers.” The report was critical of many sources that are used by history teachers, noting that sometimes there is no way to ascertain the accuracy of materials provided for teachers. In particular, the report referred to the Notebook as “propaganda.”

As an end result to the continued criticism, Shabbas promised to give “careful and thoughtful attention” to the issues raised by her detractors, after many issues of the Notebook had already been sent out to teachers.

Sources

Archibald, George. “Textbook on Arabs removes blunder.” ­ The Washington Times. 4 Apr 2004: A2.

Bennetta, William J., “Arab World Studies Notebook lobs Muslim propaganda at teachers.” The Textbook League. (2003): n. pag. Online. Internet. 30 Mar. 2006. Available http://www.textbookleague.org/spwich.htm.

Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Keith. “Barry Fell.” Cult and Fringe Archeology. (2006) n. pag. Online. Internet. 28 Mar 2006. Available http://kjmatthews.com.

Mroueh, Dr. Youssef. “Muslims in the Americas before Columbus.” As-Sunnah Foundation of America. (1996). n. pag. Online. Internet. 28 March 2006. Available http://www.sunnah.org/history/precolmb.htm.

Yeagley, David A., “So Muslims Came to America Before Columbus?” History News Network (2004): n. pag. Online. Internet. 30 Mar. 2006. Available http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/4899.html.

Poor Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt Mud Cakes

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Rising Food Costs Force Haiti’s Poor to Resort to Eating Dirt

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

It was lunchtime in one of Haiti’s worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.

The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

Yolen Jeunky arranges dried mud cookies for sale in a bucket in Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Nov. 29, 2007. (Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo)

“When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day,” Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies also give her stomach pains. “When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky too,” she said.

Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.

A woman dries mud cookies in the sun on the the roof of Fort Dimanche, once a prison, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Nov. 29, 2007. Rising prices and food shortages are threatening Haiti’s fragile stability, and the mud cookies, made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening, are one of very few options the poorest people have to stave off hunger. (Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo)

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places.

The global price hikes, together with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season, prompted the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency to declare states of emergency in Haiti and several other Caribbean countries. Caribbean leaders held an emergency summit in December to discuss cutting food taxes and creating large regional farms to reduce dependence on imports.

At the market in the La Saline slum, two cups of rice now sell for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.

The hand of a woman is covered in mud as she makes mud cookies on the roof of Fort Dimanche, Nov. 30, 2007. (Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo)

Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared to food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.

Merchants truck the dirt from the central town of Hinche to the La Saline market, a maze of tables of vegetables and meat swarming with flies. Women buy the dirt, then process it into mud cookies in places such as Fort Dimanche, a nearby shanty town.

Carrying buckets of dirt and water up ladders to the roof of the former prison for which the slum is named, they strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. Then they pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun.

The finished cookies are carried in buckets to markets or sold on the streets.

A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.

Assessments of the health effects are mixed. Dirt can contain deadly parasites or toxins, but can also strengthen the immunity of fetuses in the womb to certain diseases, said Gerald N. Callahan, an immunology professor at Colorado State University who has studied geophagy, the scientific name for dirt-eating.

Haitian doctors say depending on the cookies for sustenance risks malnutrition.

Yolen Jeunky prepares cookies made of dirt, water, salt and butter on the the roof of Fort Dimanche. (Ariana Cubillos/ AP Photo)

“Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it,” said Dr. Gabriel Thimothee, executive director of Haiti’s health ministry.

Marie Noel, 40, sells the cookies in a market to provide for her seven children. Her family also eats them.

“I’m hoping one day I’ll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these,” she said. “I know it’s not good for me.”

By JONATHAN M. KATZ Associated Press Writer
Jan 29, 2008
The Associated Press

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

The cost of food: facts and figures

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Explore the facts and figures behind the rising price of food across the globe.

The World Bank has announced emergency measures to tackle rising food prices around the world.

World Bank head Robert Zoellick warned that 100 million people in poor countries could be pushed deeper into poverty by spiralling prices.

The crisis has sparked recent food riots in several countries including Haiti, the Philippines and Egypt.

The World Bank endorsed Mr Zoellick’s “new deal” action plan for a long-term boost to agricultural production.

Emergency help would include an additional $10m (£5m) to Haiti, where several people were killed in food riots last week, and a doubling of agricultural loans to African farmers.

Starvation risk

Mr Zoellick’s proposals were endorsed by the World Bank’s steering committee of finance and development ministers at a meeting in Washington.

We have to put our money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths
Robert Zoellick
World Bank head

The World Bank and its sister organisation, the IMF, have held a weekend of meetings that addressed rising food and energy prices as well as the credit crisis upsetting global financial markets.

The leader of the International Monetary Fund last week said hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of starvation because of food shortages.

Prices have risen sharply in recent months, driven by increased demand, poor weather in some countries that has ruined crops and reduced production area, thanks to an increase in the use of land to grow crops for transport fuels.

The price of staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn have all risen, leading to an increase in overall food prices of 83% in the last three years, the World Bank has said.

GLOBAL FOOD PRICE RISES
Wheat: 130%
Soya: 87%
Rice: 74%
Corn: 31%
Time: Year to March 2008
Source: Bloomberg

The sharp rises have led to protests and unrest in many countries, including Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

In Haiti, protests last week turned violent, leading to the deaths of five people and the fall of the government.

Restrictions on rice exports have been put in place in major producing countries such as India, China, Vietnam and Egypt.

Importers such as Bangladesh, the Philippines and Afghanistan have been hit hard.

Rich urged to act

“We have to put our money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths,” Mr Zoellick said. “It’s as stark as that.”

He called for more aid to provide food to needy people in poor countries and help for small farmers. He said the World Bank was working to provide money for seeds for planting in the new season.

He also urged wealthy donor countries to quickly fill the World Food Programme’s estimated $500m (£250m) funding shortfall.

Mr Zoellick’s “New Deal for Global Food Policy” also seeks to boost agricultural policy in poor countries in the longer-term.

On Saturday, the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned of mass starvation and other dire consequences if food prices continued to rise sharply.

“As we know, learning from the past, those kind of questions sometimes end in war,” he said.

He said the problem could lead to trade imbalances that may eventually affect developed nations, “so it is not only a humanitarian question”.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/business/7344892.stm

Published: 2008/04/14 11:02:54 GMT