The Debate Over Subsidizing Snacks

Here is yet another post on the Farm Bill, because it doesn't get nearly the interest that the energy bill did yet it is probably as important to us all. The New York Times provides a very good overview of the issues, noting that in the 2002 bill, $67.6 billion was spent to subsidize the growers of five commodities: soybeans, corn, rice, wheat and cotton. Fruit and vegetable farmers do not get subsidies. The result: fresh fruits and vegetables have increased in price by 40% in fifteen years while soda pop, made from high fructose corn syrup, has declined by 25% adjusted for inflation. The system is completely biased to the big- one giant cotton farm collected $2.95 million in subsidies, nearly as much money as the federal government spent on its primary research program for organic agriculture last year — $3 million.

There are all kinds of neat ideas for what should be in the farm bill to promote better and local food; according to the Times: "Some of the bills before Congress are aimed at helping growers of fruits and vegetables and adding to the supply of local food.

One goal is helping to pay for new processing plants and slaughterhouses so that small farms could more easily market their products in their regions rather than sending them long distances. Many regional plants went out of business when the food industry became more concentrated.

Another is setting up more farmers’ markets and helping farmers sell to nearby schools, hospitals and other institutions, and helping low-income older people buy from small farmers.

Other ideas include giving grants, loans and technical assistance to beginning, immigrant and minority farmers to start new farms or to keep small struggling farms in business, and providing money for farmers who want to convert to organic methods.

Spending money on researching the cultivation of fruits and vegetables would help farmers find more efficient ways to irrigate and fertilize crops and deal with pests while cutting back on pesticides. Greenhouses would also be built to extend growing seasons."

Unfortunately, change is unlikely to happen when all those corn states with small populations have two senators each. ::New York Times Read also ::Red State Welfare, ::Michael Pollan: The Government Makes You Fat and ::Shhhh, We've Got a Secret: Soil Solves Global Warming, Part 1

Tags: Agriculture

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