Dan MorganSometimes things happen that embarrass even the most ardent supporters of U.S. farm policy. One such thing occurred after the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over the United States in 2003, spewing debris over dozens of counties along its flight path. Astonishingly, the event turned out to be a minor windfall for ranchers and dairymen in the affected counties. They were made eligible for up to $40,000 in “disaster” payments - whether or not their herds or pastures had been damaged by falling shuttle parts.

Such stories lend credence to the view that the American farm subsidy system, now a key stumbling bloc in the Doha Round of global trade negotiations, is simply “crazy.” In a nine-part series on farming in The Washington Post last year, two colleagues and I combed through a huge mother-load of statistical data and then did nationwide reporting on U.S. agriculture, finding and describing a number of situations that seemed to defy logic.


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