St. Mary's Law Journal


Agriculture, today, is the center of a set of multi-dimensional international controversies and crises. International agricultural strife threatens the future of the global free-trade system. This strife soured relations between the United States and its principal allies and trading partners: Canada, the European Community (EC), and Japan. The agricultural trade controversy is at the heart of the bitter stalemate of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. The deadlock over farm trade called into question the very future of the GATT as an international organization. Controversies over agriculture also endanger approval of the recently concluded North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is imperative to cut a deal at the GATT Uruguay Round negotiations. Not only will it alleviate the current atmosphere of trade friction, but a whole variety of positive actions will stimulate the world economy. A GATT agreement would indicate the major trading nations can compromise on agricultural trade. It is not enough however, to reform international agricultural trade without recognizing the equally deleterious effect of inefficient and expensive domestic farm policies. The United States, the EC, and Japan, are all experiencing the same problems with respect to their domestic farm policies: budget imbalances, overproduction of stocks, and trade dislocation. Although national agricultural programs should allow in diversity, they should adopt a framework for reform. The framework should include: (1) progressively lower price supports; (2) “decoupled” payments to farmers to replace lower deficiency payments; and (3) a Rural Conservation Reserve program to preserve the environment and biodiversity. These reforms would allow a gradual transition to market-oriented farming in both the international and domestic arena. The global community should reject both the present system of massive and expensive government intervention and the siren song of managed agricultural trade.


St. Mary's University School of Law