You might call it a friendly reminder. That's what Washington observers were saying about an unusual two-page letter sent by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.
Chambliss, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, fired off the letter on Oct. 9 after Portman said he planned to offer to reduce U.S. farm subsidies by 60 percent to try to restart the stalled Doha Round negotiations in the WTO in Zurich, Switzerland. The letter was released to the agricultural media on Oct. 11.
Noting that the Doha negotiations seemed to be at a critical point, Chambliss said he wanted to express his concern regarding proposals from the European Union “and others” that would dramatically reduce U.S. farm support. Then he delivered the kicker:
“As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I have a responsibility and duty to protect the farm safety net and ensure the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act passed by Congress and signed by the president remains intact through 2007. I believe that an agreement that genuinely results in a more market-driven international trading system would be good for the United States and for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it appears that some of our trading partners are asking for a lot while offering very little.”