Agriculture and Environment: Soybeans

Better Management Practices: Eliminate Subsidies/Market Barriers

Subsidies aimed at encouraging soybean production and export irrespective of the environmental cost or current market demand for the product should be eliminated.
Price supports - do they really help?
Price supports for soybeans in the United States are precisely the kind of subsidy that flies in the face of unregulated markets and that ultimately will cost most of society a lot yet ultimately will fail to protect American producers from cheaper soybeans from other parts of the world, especially Brazil.

More examples
Virtually no country is immune from harmful subsidies. Take Brazil, for example, a country with a number of advantages for the production of soybeans. In Brazil several subsidies are being considered. The governor of Roraima, the northernmost state in Brazil, has proposed a 20 year tax exemption for all soybean producers (Fearnside 2000). The idea is to increase production from close to zero in 1999 to 200,000 hectares by 2005 with an overall investment of some U.S. $300 million. Production would be exported by road through Guyana.

Indirect environmental impacts
If the road through Guyana is completed and paved, then considerable logging would probably take place in that country as an indirect consequence of soybean production. It will be essential to oppose these subsidies if the harmful environmental impacts of soybean production are to be checked.

Market barriers, more harm than good
Likewise, market barriers that tend to protect domestic producers or processors such as those in Europe should also be eliminated. Such programs encourage production in countries that are less well suited and overall are less productive. They also cause producers from more productive countries to attempt to cut costs even more (often at the expense of the environment) so that they can compete with domestic producers (e.g., Europe or China) that are protected with import duties or tariffs.

Credits

Extracts from "World Agriculture & Environment" by Jason Clay - buy the book online from Island Press

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