Why are taxpayers subsidizing bad food choices?

Sunday, March 02, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: farm bill, taxpayers, crop subsidies

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(NaturalNews) One quick perusal of the recently passed agricultural bill in Congress will show you what is inherently wrong with it: Taxpayers are being forced to heavily subsidize some of the worst crops in terms of our health.

According to The Washington Post's Tamar Haspel, two of those crops -- corn and soy -- are in and of themselves bad enough (the vast majority of both of these crops, for example, are genetically modified strains). But worse, taxpayer subsidies of these crops "facilitate the meat and processed food we're supposed to eat less of," while doing "almost nothing for the fruits and vegetables we're supposed to eat more of."

If the public's money is to be obligated to bolster U.S. agricultural growth and development in a way that supports the national goal of better health, "shouldn't it be the other way around?" she writes.

Of course it should be. But as one might have guessed, the problem is deeply rooted in a culture of corporate influence over legislative processes:

The problem dates back to the bill's inception in the 1930s, when farms raised livestock and grew a mix of crops, including staple crops (corn, wheat, oats, barley) and what the bill calls "specialty crops" but what the rest of us know as fruits and vegetables.

'To me, it comes down to money and lobbyists'

For the next several decades, until about 1980, subsidies by themselves were not large enough to significantly alter the mix of crops on farms, said Vincent Smith, a professor of economics at Montana State University and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

"In 1980, we introduced crop insurance subsidies of substance that began to change the ways in which farmers manage risk, and to discourage diversification," he told the Post. Since then, the government has increased those subsidies until they became quite substantial. Farmers, in essence, then began farming according to the farm bill in the same way that teachers teach to a test, Haspel wrote.

Dr. Kathy Gruver, PhD, an expert educator and lecturer and founder of The Alternative Medicine Cabinet, told Natural News that too many outside interests influence the makeup of annual farm bills.

"To me, it comes down to money and lobbyists," she told Natural News, adding that the focus ought to be on what amounts to healthier food policy for a chronically overweight nation.

"The companies that manufacture these crops and then the foods that they go in to are making fake foods that lead to and contribute to disease and obesity," she said. "We need access to fresh organically grown fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, these small and family farms don't have access to lobbyists and huge amounts of funding."

Some changes in 2014 farm bill but subsidies abound

Dr. Glen Swartwout, an accomplished naturopathic physician and scholar, agrees that there is too much corporate influence in crafting farm bill legislation. And he also believes the emphasis is not on improving the lives and health of Americans.

"Corporations provide advantages in commerce not available to family farmers, back yard gardeners, and other producers of whole, fresh vital health promoting foods," he told Natural News. But, he added, commercially produced foods "are generally less fresh, more processed and refined, less nutritious, more packaged and adulterated with additives."

"Corporations were rare in the early days of our nation, because they were understood to be an occasionally 'necessary evil' in order to accomplish some otherwise unattainable good, such as building a toll bridge. Today, corporations rule the government, the actual definition of fascism," Swartwout said.

The alternative is unclear. Direct payments were discontinued in the 2014 farm bill, and there are provisions contained in it that aid growers of mixed crops. But all in all it will still cost taxpayers hundreds of billions and continue to subsidize some of the worst crops.


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