The Bush administration is pressing Congress to build a farm policy that will withstand challenges at the world trade court, a senior U.S. agriculture official told Reuters News Service on June 1.

Mark Keenum, USDA undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services, said he and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns have pressed congressional leaders about the need to tailor farm policy with the threat of World Trade Organization (WTO) challenges in mind.

"This comes up pretty much every time we talk about the farm bill or whatever, every time we have a meeting. So we are communicating," Keenum said in an interview with Reuters. "Are we prepared to have other countries line up to challenge our programs ... and run the risk of losing?"

Losing those cases would have real consequences, he said, as the U.S. found out when Brazil won a WTO challenge against U.S. cotton subsidies. After that case, the U.S. was forced to dismantle some supports for cotton farmers.

The U.S. is bracing itself for more news when the WTO issues an interim decision on whether it has done enough to comply with the Brazil ruling.

Other nations, like Canada and Mexico, are making overtures that they could file challenges against U.S. subsidies.

"The leadership of the Congress and particularly the Agriculture Committees understand that clearly," he said.


Editor’s note: Richard Brock, The Corn And Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at www.brockreport.com.