How the government is supporting the U.S. obesity epidemic - opinion by Zeneve Diaz
Food subsidies began during the Great Depression in 1920 and have been evolving ever since. Food subsidies were first established to stabilize crop economy, keep farmers farming, and continue t provide U.S. families with affordable food. Subsidies are seen in other industrialized nations where they are used to keep production high, and prices low. During World War one farmers increased growing patterns to accommodate the efforts in the war. After the war was over, farmers continued to grow crops as an exponential rate. The result of this was a large influx of crops on the market causing prices to plummet. Since that time the U.S. government has tried to control what and how much the farmers are growing. ***
***In the 1960s farm, subsidies began to taper off. But after a poor growing year and an agreement to sell millions of bushels of wheat to the Soviet Union, there was a shortage and spike in the prices. In response to this, the government developed programs to incentives farmers to increase the production of the basic, commodity crops. The result was a surplus of- primarily wheat, corn, soybeans, and cotton- and falling prices for these products on the market. In 1996 an attempt was made to eliminate subsidies altogether. This was the freedom to Farm Act. This act eliminated subsidies but instead gave farmers fixed amounts of money based on what they had grown in past years. By 2000 these fixed payments reached $22 billion. But in the 2002 farm bill the efforts and attempts that were being made to eliminate subsidies altogether were given up on. In 2012 it was scheduled to distribute $190 billion.***
***Some critics call it welfare that benefits huge agricultural corporations- giant farms, grain brokers, food processors, fast food chains, and prepackaged food companies. This support drives down the price of commodities such as corn, wheat, and soybeans. Prices of these staples are low, so are those of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated fats, and corn-fed meats. To add to the problem, fattening foods are supported. “We put maybe one-tenth of one percent of our dollar that we put into subsidizing and promoting foods through the Department of Agriculture into fruits and vegetables," says Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the Carolina Population Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a result of this, there is a large gap between whole fruits and vegetables and highly processed foods. This means that red meats, sugar and fat loaded products, and fast food appear like a better buy to the consumer and are cheaper than healthier whole food options. ***
The price of food has fallen a lot over the past couple of decades. According to estimates done by RANS Corporation and National Bureau of Economic Research who investigates trends in U.S. obesity, declining food prices can account for as much as half of the increase in obesity that has been observed. In some sense, it is very clear that people that are faced with having to eat cheaper food, eat more, and they weigh more.
Photo reference: Crops and “The end”: https://grist.org/food/our-crazy-farm-subsidies-explained/
Infographic and chart: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4199684-huge-world-of-farm-subsidies
Crop field: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/07/18/486051480/we-subsidize-crops-we-should-eat-less-of-does-this-fatten-us-up
Aubrey, Allison. “Does Subsidizing Crops We're Told To Eat Less Of Fatten Us Up?” NPR, NPR, 18 July 2016, www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/07/18/486051480/we-subsidize-crops-we-should-eat-less-of-does-this-fatten-us-up.
Fields, Scott. "The fat of the land: do agricultural subsidies foster poor health?" Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 112, no. 14, 2004, p. A820+. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A134257217/OVIC?u=sfsu_main&sid=OVIC&xid=b67b65b1. Accessed 4 Nov. 2019.
“Food Injustice.” The Breakthrough Institute, thebreakthrough.org/journal/no-11-summer-2019/food-injustice.
Siegel KR, McKeever Bullard K, Imperatore G, et al. Association of Higher Consumption of Foods Derived From Subsidized Commodities With Adverse Cardiometabolic Risk Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(8):1124–1132. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2410
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