Where do we go from here?

I’ve been posting a lot of these really political chapter outlines, talking about what the farm bill is and how it’s come to be.  But all of that information has amounted to one thing- a food system that isn’t serving our needs.  So, what do we do with this wealth of knowledge?  What can we learn from all of this?

By not taking an active role in how their food is legislated and produced, Americans are allowing business interests to dictate their diets in a way that’s more beneficial to the bottom line than to the waistline.  By allowing business interests to legislate our food system through lobbying and subsequent subsidization, we’re wreaking havoc on our environment, our economy, and our health.

The 2012 bill will eliminate direct payments for farmers (money paid regardless of whether or not crops are planted), replacing them with a subsidized crop insurance program.[1]  Many farmer groups have spoken out against direct payments, alleging that in times of austerity they do more harm than good by rewarding landowners per acre whether or not they produce crops.  Both the National Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau, two powerful agriculture organizations, have come out against direct farm subsidies, which amount to about $10 billion annually; moreover, direct payments disproportionately benefit large corporations, as they’re paid per acre.[2]  In other words direct payments give the most money to the largest landholders, who tend to be agribusiness corporations and banks.

The Mercatus Center, a George Mason University research center, argues that farm subsidies are cronyism that benefits large-scale producers.[3]  They’re fraught with questionable payments—massive companies (both from the US and overseas) receive a huge amount of agricultural payments.  Wells Fargo, for example, received $1.72b in crop insurance coverage from 2007 to 2011, ACE Ltd. of Switzerland received $1.5 billion, and QBE Insurance Group of Australia received $1 billion in direct payment subsidies.[4] Agricultural subsidies in America in 2012 are harmful to the environment, the economy, and our health.  By subsidizing big growers, largely ignoring conservation, and expecting agriculture to fit into a capitalist model through things like specialization and consolidation, we’re doing irreparable damage to our environment, our health, and our economy.  These subsidies have been feeding the coffers of banks and agribusiness corporations at the expense of farmers and taxpayer dollars.  We need to start subsidizing better food choices and encouraging smarter food production if we want to effect positive change in this system.

[1] “US Agricultural Subsidies Equated to Cronyism,” The Epoch Times, August 22nd, 2012.  Accessed 8 October 2012. http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/business/us-agricultural-subsidies-equated-to-cronyism-282438.html

[2] “Corn lobby outgrows US farm subsidies,” Al Jazeera, 31 August 2012.  Accessed 8 October 2012. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/08/2012826114433916589.html

[3] The Epoch Times, August 22nd, 2012.

[4] Ibid.


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