Y'all remember that tale about the goose that laid the golden egg? It was one of Aesop's or Grimm's' or some other of the fabulous fabulists tales I remember from a big storybook my mom used to read to me about a hundred years ago.

You will recall that a poultry producer discovered that an otherwise ordinary goose had the remarkable ability of producing 14 carat gold eggs on a daily basis. After several weeks of collecting these valuable eggs, the goose's owner…. (That sounds strange, kinda like someone's poking you in the ribs.) Anyway, the owner of the goose grew impatient. One golden egg a day was not filling his basket, in which he apparently was putting all his eggs, to add another fable to the mix, nearly fast enough.

“Aha,” he thought, “If I slice open this goose I can get all the eggs at one time and become rich beyond my wildest imagination, immigrate to America and live happily ever after in a condo in Corpus Christi, Texas.” (I told you it had been a while since mom read this to me.)

So the greedy goose owner wrung the poor fowl's neck, opened up its innards and discovered: goose innards, you know, liver (for pate), heart, gizzard, craw, etc. Alas, no golden eggs to be found. Turned out that the goose had to be alive and kicking to produce golden eggs. It also possibly needed a gander with golden egg genetics to make the system work, but this was a children's storybook after all and did not get quite that racy.

And, to make matters worse, (For the poultry guy since things had already gotten as bad as it gets for the poor goose.) by this time the greedy man had used up most of his golden egg supply on video rentals and Haagen Dazs ice cream and could no longer afford a hovel in Hungary, much less a condo in Corpus Christi. He became depressed and turned to journalism to earn his keep.

The moral to this story, and, much like my columns, storybook tales always had morals, is not to kill any geese with golden egg laying genes and by all means don't put them all in one basket and fritter them away on unnecessary items. And if you really want to live in Corpus Christi you should work hard, invest wisely and stay away from journalism as a career choice.

Now, to get to my moral, which I suspect you knew was coming. The recent WTO fiasco reminds me of the unfortunate golden goose. I'm not about to claim that the United States has the ability to pop out golden eggs every day and I'm not about to say that even if we could we would be subject to a neck wringing and disemboweling.

But we are a prosperous nation and apparently some other nations are a bit jealous of that. Consequently, if they can get our goat, or give us the goose, on a trade agreement, they eagerly go for the gizzard.

Fairness and goodwill play little part in taking us to task. And just because no one else abides by international trade rules doesn't mean that we shouldn't. Or that's apparently how the WTO panel of judges views the situation with Brazil's claim that our farm policy distorts trade.

Apparently, many of our international competitors would like to limit our farmers' abilities to earn a living from their labor. They claim that our “subsidies” make us more competitive, but they never own up to their own transgressions, such as currency devaluation. Nor do they consider that they have few labor restrictions or environmental laws to regulate how they grow their crops.

But even more important, and the reason the golden goose fable seems fitting, is that to hamstring American farm production would restrict how much aid we can send to developing countries, how much money we could provide to develop manufacturing infrastructures (a dubious investment at times) and how rapidly we could respond to national disasters.

When countries need help, regardless of how close their ties to the United States, this is the goose they look to first for golden eggs.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com