Issues to Own
U.S grain products not only feed people; they also stimulate economic growth among our trading partners. Efficient transfer of food supplies from surplus countries like the United States to deficit countries throughout the world allows these countries to move up the international value chain. Instead of spending disproportionate resources pursuing the expensive yet elusive goal of food self-sufficiency, they can focus on efficiently developing the resources they do have in areas of comparative advantage.
Agricultural trade advances peace around the world because it fosters food security, socio-political stability, national security and enduring international partnerships. Economic integration, interdependency, and systems of mutual advantage through trade are powerful incentives for global political cooperation.
The affordability of food is a major concern around the world. People in developed countries devote less than 20 percent of their income to food – in the United States, less than 10 percent – while in developing countries, more than half of household income is often spent on food. Better availability and more choice through trade can significantly reduce costs to consumers in the developing world.
In every part of the world, adverse weather periodically affects food production. Agricultural trade is a common-sense, efficient safety net. For example, the droughts and fires that occurred in Australia in 2008 and 2009 made that country unable to fulfill many grain delivery contracts it had signed. Through international trade, the U.S., Ukraine and other countries stepped in to make up the shortfall. This occurs routinely; no country is immune from weather events, and all countries benefit from the trade safety net. Some countries have no alternative to trade.
Thanks to the “green revolution,” continuing productivity gains from biotechnology and advances in production technology, sufficient food is at least theoretically available to feed the world’s population. All too often, however, artificial trade policy barriers low incomes, and inadequate transportation, storage and marketing systems block food from flowing to people in need. Use of food embargoes as political leverage and imposition of export embargoes in response to domestic supply considerations also undermine the reliability of the safety net that international agricultural trade provides.