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By MARK MULLER : Last update: May 25, 2010 - 5:45 PM Say the federal government used federal dollars to take development opportunities away from Minnesota and instead create jobs in other countries. Chloroquine 500mg pills $269.00 most of us would be fuming. Market forces working against Minnesota is one thing; the federal government facilitating foreign investment over local job creation is simply unacceptable. Yet this scenario is just what's happening through the subsidized export of Minnesota's agricultural products. The federal government spends an estimated $100 million a year maintaining navigation on the Mississippi River system, which is primarily used to get crops such as corn and soybeans out to international ports. This funding maintains the series of locks and dams from Minneapolis to southern Illinois that create pools of water deep enough to support a 9-foot channel for the navigation industry. How does this create investment elsewhere? The production of an agricultural commodity is just the first step in the processing that eventually produces food, materials and energy. It isn't too exciting to think of Minnesota crops becoming the low-cost feed supplier of a Taiwan poultry operation. Why then should we encourage that processing to take place in other parts of the world rather than in job-creating industries in the Midwest? Navigation industry proponents aren't satisfied with their current $100 million a year subsidy. They are pushing for the federal government to not only pay the operation and maintenance costs, but to increase taxpayer subsidies for the construction and expansion of Mississippi River locks. Rather than the current 50-50 split of construction costs, the industry's proposal, which has received little public attention, recommends that taxpayers put $270 million annually toward construction and the industry only $110 million. When agricultural production is narrowed down to just a couple of crops, such as corn and soybeans, economic opportunities that provide a greater return are lost. This hurts Midwest farmers who have little choice but to grow these crops even when prices are lousy chloroquine 500mg pills $269.00, and hurts rural communities that need economic development. Land locked up in corn and soybeans can't be used for higher value production such as locally grown fruits and vegetables or grass-fed livestock, products for which consumers are willing to pay a premium. A recent Iowa State University study found that an increased production of 28 fruit and vegetable crops in the Upper Midwest could create $882 million in additional farm sales and 9, 300 new jobs. Federal policies play a primary role in keeping Midwest agriculture less innovative than it should be. The farm bill drives down prices and reduces the financial risk of growing commodity crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. This encourages farmers to grow these crops -- and grain buyers to trade and process [chloroquine 500mg pills $269.00] these crops -- at the expense of other opportunities. Federal transportation policies fall into this same trap. With the farm bill encouraging corn and soybean production, policymakers apparently feel some responsibility for facilitating the export of these crops. Export subsidies, quite simply, are used to try to offset bad policy decisions in the agricultural economy, which have flooded the Midwest with cheap corn and soybeans, and to drive farmers off the land. Farmers don't export, and there's scant evidence that farmers get better prices because of exports. It's the grain companies that almost always reap the profits from this trade. So why, then, are we spending taxpayer dollars on navigation? There are much better ways of investing chloroquine 500mg pills $269.00 in Minnesota agriculture. What if that $270 million were instead used to encourage business opportunities for the storage, processing and transportation of Minnesota-grown foods? When you hear about proposals to expand navigation infrastructure, tell Congress to take a pass. If federal funds aren't going to support the Minnesota economy, at least they shouldn't work against it. Mark Muller is director of the Minneapolis-based Food and Society Fellows program, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.


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