2 - The Bumpers Amendment  pp. 41-55

The Bumpers Amendment

By Paul B. Thompson

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In November 1985, Senator Dale Bumpers first offered an amendment intended to prohibit foreign aid activities that would encourage export of agricultural commodities from developing countries. The bill stressed competition for world markets between potential exporters from the developing world and U.S. farmers. The amendment (No. 1129) reads, in part,

None of the funds to be appropriated to carry out chapter 1 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1981 may be available for any testing or breeding feasibility study, variety improvement or introduction, consultancy, publication, conference, or training in connection with the growth or production in a foreign country for export if such export would compete in world markets with a similar commodity grown or produced in the United States.

(U.S. Senate, 1985)

A similar version, now commonly referred to as the Bumpers Amendment, was reintroduced in May 1986 and has become law. In Bumpers's words, the act is to “prevent American tax dollars from being used to help foreign countries who are trying to take our export markets.”

The potential consequences of this law are far reaching. The U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) is required to suspend research and implementation projects that could enable poor foreign farmers to increase commercial production of commodities such as meat, maize, or wheat that are exported from the United States, and also of commodities such as palm oil that are not produced for export in the United States, but may substitute for U.S. commodities.