While the safest bet is that commodity programs in the 2007 farm bill will look much like the present ones, budgetary and international trade considerations may trigger fundamental change in U.S. agricultural policy, said a University of Illinois professor of agricultural policy.

"The safest bet is that the commodity programs will not change much," said Robert L. Thompson, the Gardner Professor of Agricultural Policy in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. "But there is just enough of a higher likelihood of change--due to the federal budget deficit, the breadth of recognition that the programs are not achieving their stated objectives and the current World Trade Organization negotiations in Geneva--that some more fundamental changes might be possible."

Thompson's remarks came in a review of the next farm bill delivered recently in Washington, D.C. at a seminar hosted by the Cordell Hull Institute.

He contended that the current objectives of U.S. farm policy are at odds with 21st century reality.

"The most common arguments in favor of government support for agriculture are low farm-family incomes and 'excessive' variability in those incomes," he said. "Two-thirds of American farmers receive no farm-program benefits because they do not grow 'program' crops. There is no evidence that these farms are less profitable than those receiving farm-program benefits."

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