Grain production, trade and consumption trends, and the appraisal of factors underlying them, indicate that surpluses, or the persistence of production in excess of effective demand, may now be considered a chronic feature of the world grain economy. The heart of the problem lies in the level of price or income guarantees to producers of wheat and other grains in many exporting as well as importing countries. These guarantees, combined with other aspects of national agricultural policies (if maintained substantially unchanged) will continue, together with technological advance, to stimulate an output larger than can be absorbed by effective demand. Independent measures of surplus disposal may therefore assume a semi-permanent character and affect an increasing part of the international trade in grains, thus adding to the marketing difficulties being experienced by exporting countries.
In the 1970s the USA deliberately reversed longstanding policy that favoured conservation practices such as fence rows, windbreaks, crop rotation and fallow land. Farmers were advised to plough fence row to fence row and blanket the grasslands with wheat and corn. The extra capacity produced surpluses and lower prices at the same time as farmers were shouldering enormous debt to finance expansion. The average annual federal subsidy to farmers from 1985 to 1995 was $14.9 billion. This was not the cost of maintaining productivity but of destroying it.
2. Annual government subsidies to farmers are the taxpayer's bill for razing the ecosystem.
3. As much as seventy percent of grain production in the USA in the 1990s was fed to livestock because of agriculture overproduction. Perfectly good meat could be raised on native grasslands, but those had been ploughed in order to increase grain production.