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Spare Us From Asparagus Tariffs (Or The Lack Thereof)

Eradication efforts in South America continue to find news ways of being counterproductive and unsuccessful.

From The Seattle Times:

The [U.S. asparagus] industry has been decimated by a U.S. drug policy designed to encourage Peruvian coca-leaf growers to switch to asparagus. Passed in 1990 and since renewed, the Andean Trade Preferences and Drugs Eradication Act permits certain products from Peru and Colombia, including asparagus, to be imported to the United States tariff-free.

Meanwhile, the Washington industry is a shadow of its former self. Acreage has been cut by 71 percent to just 9,000 acres.

Well at least something got eradicated. Perhaps Washington farmers will now turn to growing America's number one cash crop instead.

Notwithstanding divergent views on free trade among our readership, I'm sure we can all agree that tariffs shouldn't be arbitrarily lifted in support of a failed drug war policy in Peru. Any success achieved in South America (there hasn't been any, but bear with me) must be measured against the sacrifices American farmers are forced against their will to make impact of abandoning protectionism spontaneously. Factoring this against ONDCP's otherwise already pathetic claims of progress leaves a worse taste in one's mouth than that of canned asparagus.

This is what we're trying to tell you about the U.S. war on drugs. The people running this thing will screw over confuse American farmers while pretending to protect our nation's interests.

If they didn't anticipate this outcome, they are incompetent and should be permanently enjoined from drafting economic policy. And if they did anticipate this inevitable outcome, and took no action to mitigate it, they should be jailed for treasonous malfeasance and fed forever on the bitter canned fruits and vegetables of their hypocrisy.

Full disclosure: I don't like asparagus. Thus, it's humorous to contemplate the irony that we can now add asparagus proliferation to the growing list of undesirable drug war consequences. Our resident vegetable enthusiast Dave Borden might disagree, but I'm sure he'd trade all the asparagus in the world for an end to the ongoing international disaster of drug prohibition.

Update: In response to comments below and at Hit & Run, it's not my contention that U.S. farmers are entitled to protection against foreign competitors. My point is that drug war politics should rarely, if ever, be used as a justification to waive policies otherwise deemed appropriate by Congress.

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It isn't the American Farmer who is being forced against his wil

When the tariffs were in place, the American Consumer was being forced to buy overpriced asparagus from American farmers.

Tariffs hurt everybody to benefit a select few. There are plenty of injuries caused by the drug war, but this is not one of them.

I understand.

It was tricky writing about this without taking a stance on tariffs. I did my best. Please don't read too far into it.

Bottom line, the drug war sucks. And asparagus sucks, but should be available at a fair price to those who choose to put it in their bodies.

Scott, you're awesome. But this is lame

Everyone who takes the time, energy, and courage needed to publicly fight against the Drug War is my hero. But I gotta take issue on this one. This stupid Drug War has ruined countless lives; its cruelty and unfairness are the most inhumane and unAmerican things I can imagine. I live in a Free Country, goddammit. No goddamn commissar can tell me what to roll in my cigarette. Or they shouldn't be able to, anyway.

But free trade is an important issue, too.

Farmers should be allowed to sell they're stuff. And it doesn't matter if they're white people from Michigan or brown people from Peru. If you have a willing buyer and a willing seller, well, then....ain't nobody's business if you do!

willing adult buyer + willing adult seller = kosher business deal

I understand!

Thank you, Jim. Yes, free trade is an important issue, but I'm not supposed to be expressing opinions about it on this drug policy blog. I'm sorry that I appeared to do so and I submit that you may have the wrong idea about what I think.

If this post hadn't already been linked and quoted elsewhere, I'd revise it to avoid even the vague appearance of endorsing tariffs. But this story isn't about the free market. They didn't lift this tariff because they agree with you about consumer choice!

They did this to buffer a failed eradication effort in South America, with the result of undermining a domestic industry (that this industry was artificially propped up in the first place is a point I expected others to raise, and I don't dispute it).

All I'm saying is that it's interesting that a drug war policy has decimated our asparagus industry. As a proponent of free markets, don't you think it sucks that your policy recommendations are heeded only when they conveniently coincide with hopeless drug war objectives in foreign countries?

Surely this is, at the very best, a bittersweet victory for the free market.


Canned asparagus tastes awful. Fresh asparagus has its moments. Still, it is not my favorite vegetable. But I did not see Scott Morgan arguing for protectionism. I read the article as arguing that, all things being equal, whether protectionism is good or bad policy should not be influenced by misguided drug policies. If Congress decided to allow the importation of foreign-grown asparagus because they wanted to drop protectionist tariffs that hurt consumers while helping farmers, they should do so based upon policy reasons that balance the interests of consumers with the national interests of maintaining an asparagus cultivation industry. Coca eradication in Peru should not be part of the equation.

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