The Secret Reason for the Egypt Protests: U.S. Agricultural Policy

>Thomas Kostigen, of Marketwatch, has published a strange—but strangely persuasive—column arguing that the protests in Egypt that toppled Hosni Mubarak were the direct result of unstable food prices brought about by American agriculture and trade policy. As he puts it, "We are the bad guy, not Mubarak":

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) -- The riots in Cairo are the result of United States policy gone bad. In fact, we -- you, me, U.S. taxpayers -- are to blame.

Strategic policy, I am not speaking of. Political policy, I am not speaking of. Nor am I talking about defense policy or other such foreign relations. The uprising in Cairo is about U.S. tax dollars supporting farm programs that wreak havoc on food prices worldwide.

Egypt is among the world's largest importers of wheat. When such commodity prices rise due to U.S. subsidy and tariff intervention, as well as speculation in the capital markets, the price of bread skyrockets. Bread is made from wheat.

In 2008, food riots broke out in Egypt, Mexico, Bangladesh and many developing countries when farmers, attracted to ethanol subsidies, abandoned food production in favor of fuel. This, along with rising oil prices, droughts, and other factors, decreased food supplies. Prices spiked.

Adding to the crisis was U.S. trade policy: Because we subsidize wheat, corn and a handful of other crops so much, we can offer them cheaper on the world market and "dump" supplies on other countries. This puts farmers in those countries out of business, as they are forced to compete with artificially low prices at the market.

Read the full story at Marketwatch.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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