whee, global poverty, or agricultural subsidies

Fuel of tomorrow

Originally uploaded by boubou1
LMB recently wrote about farm subsidies in the US and the damage they do. They affect the major ingredients and prices of the food we buy.

there are five crops which receive huge, huge payouts from the US government: corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton. None of these five are all that nutritious (particularly the cotton), while healthier produce like broccoli and carrots and such get almost no subsidies.

The result? According to Pollan, “real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) [he means corn syrup] declined by 23 percent.” Calories are cheap and nutrients are ’spensive.

Since high fructose corn syrup is actually quite bad for you, it seems that one effect of subsidizing corn so heavily is to make Americans unhealthy. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to put that subsidy money into other crops and healthcare?

But the most devastating result of these subsidies is felt in other countries.

The second catastrophe that these food subsidies is the destruction of foreign agriculture. If you get a jillion dollars in free government money for growing soybeans, you can sell them for much cheaper than the amount it cost to produce those soybeans. And if those subsidies encourage you to grow more soybeans than you can sell domestically (and they do), then you’ve got extra to sell abroad. And if your exported soybeans are competing with local farmers who do not get a jillion dollars in free government money, then your soybeans will sell over your competitors. Then your competitors go bankrupt, and whee, global poverty.

This year’s Farm Bill might be different. Don’t just keep your fingers crossed, write to your elected officials about it.