WASHINGTON, March 12, 2014 – The top 21 food producing countries in the world were supported by an estimated $486 billion in agriculture subsidies in 2012, according to a new report. Though that number may seem high, agriculture subsidies are actually in decline: governments spent 19 percent of the total worldwide value of agriculture produced on subsidies that year, down from 32 percent in 2001. 

Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization, found that Asia spends more on agricultural subsidies than the rest of the world combined. China pays farmers about $165 billion per year, while Indonesia and South Korea pay their agriculture industries $28 billion and $20 billion, respectively.

Japan, which has been criticized for seeking to protect certain government-supported agriculture sectors during the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, pays farmers $65 billion annually, Worldwatch says.

North America, by contrast, provided $45 billion in subsidies in 2012. The United States – which recently did away with direct payments, criticized by many as an overly-protectionist agriculture policy – paid out $30 billion for subsidies that year, while Canada and Mexico spent about $7 billion each.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OPEC), an international economic forum for countries devoted to free trade and democracy, 94 percent of agriculture subsidies were spent by Asia, Europe and North America.

“Since subsidized farmers are insulated from the true cost of farming, they can afford to sell at a lower price than their less-subsidized foreign counterparts,” Worldwatch Institute wrote in a release. “Many developing countries have argued that this undermines their own agricultural sectors as they cannot afford to spend billions in subsidies to overcome this handicap.”


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