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Stop the Brazilian bamboozle

June 21, 2011
In The News

Wisconsin State Journal

By Editorial Board

It's a small victory.

But we'll take it - and urge Wisconsin's congressional delegation to make sure it sticks.

The House of Representatives last week voted 223-197 to block a $150 million annual payment to Brazil's cotton industry.

Yes, you just read that last sentence correctly.

Our leaders in Washington have been steering $12 million a month to cotton farmers in Brazil so that Washington can continue spending even more - nearly $900 million last year - on subsidies to cotton farmers here in the United States. The government handouts continue even though cotton prices are high.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., with help from fiscal conservatives in the Republican-run House, finally succeeded in voting down the payment Thursday. Kind correctly argued that the United States should cut its domestic cotton subsidies to comply with international trading rules, rather than paying off Brazil to look the other way.

"Let's end this nonsense of stacking subsidy program on top of subsidy program to blackmail other governments," Kind said.

Unfortunately, some House leaders have suggested Kind's smart change could be nixed during negotiations with the Senate over a final agriculture spending bill.

That's where Wisconsin's delegation comes in. Every House member from Wisconsin - with the glaring exception of Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis. - voted with Kind to block the Brazil payment. Wisconsin should be unified against this sham in both the House and the Senate.

The $150 million in savings isn't much, given the federal government's debt crisis that climbs into the trillions. Congress still has a long way to go in scaling back fat farm subsidies - especially the direct payments farmers get for not growing crops.

But stopping the Brazil bamboozle will be an important and hugely symbolic first step, building momentum for broader, larger savings.

If Congress can't cut off one wasteful payment to Brazil, how will it ever get serious about scaling back billions in domestic subsidies?