FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture

Summer: the season of barbecues, baseball games, and backyard fun. It’s also the time of year when the American farming industry comes into full swing producing the crops we hold near and dear.

The pastoral ideal of golden fields of corn and wheat is what comes to mind for most people, and they’d be on the right track. Corn, soybeans, and wheat are the three biggest crops grown in this country, and — along with cows, pigs, and chicken — make up the bulk of our farming output.

There’s a reason for this: The federal government heavily subsidizes those products. In fact, the bulk of U.S. farming subsidies go to only 4 percent of farms — overwhelmingly large and corporate operations — that grow these few crops.

For the most part, that corn, soy, and wheat doesn’t even go to feed our populace. More of it goes into the production of ethanol — which is also heavily subsidized — and into the mouths of those cows, pigs, and chickens stuffed into feedlots. Those grains purchased by the feedlots are also federally subsidized, allowing producers to buy grains at below market prices.

When we do eat these foods, they’re sold back to us in unhealthy forms, pumped full of high fructose corn syrup and growth hormones. Large corporate farms and feedlots also poison waterways, drain aquifers, and pollute the air.

Meanwhile, small farmers continue to go broke, thanks to the low cost of foods subsidized by the government for corporate buyers. Even the few companies that provide seeds and equipment for farmers receive their own tax breaks from state governments, while farmers are stuck with the bill of goods sold to them from companies like John Deere and Monsanto.

Does this help feed America? Not really: We still buy most of our food from far-flung places. So why is our government subsidizing this production model?

Plain and simple: Corporations buy these subsidies for pennies on the dollar.

In 2011, the agribusiness industry spent around $100 million to lobby and campaign for federal support. They got billions in subsidies in return, making them the biggest recipients of corporate welfare.

This is disgraceful. Why should our government support big businesses that poison us and our environment?

Congress is now considering a new Farm Bill. The recently shot-down first draft cut funding for rural development and conservation programs, while opening up loopholes for corporate farms to access more subsidies. That should open the field for newer, better ideas.

All politicians champion small businesses, especially those in the heartland where most agricultural production takes places. If they’re going to subsidize agriculture, why not give more support to family farms, which often farm more sustainably and grow much healthier foods?

Instead of supporting factory farms and mono-crops, we could provide incentives for crop rotations, reduced usage of pesticides and herbicides, pasture-raised meat, and organic practices. Studies show that practices like organic farming produce only marginally less than conventional farms.

These practices are a part and parcel of a growing segment of the agricultural industry bolstered by health and environmentally conscious consumers. Farmers who sell their products at farmers markets and through community supported agriculture groups should be heralded and paid for their support of the community.

This could also lower the costs of healthier foods, which often are priced prohibitively for the people who need them most. Expanding the market for food farmed sustainably and ethically grown would benefit all consumers — and address the health crisis brought on by the mass consumption of unhealthy foods.

Why should we subsidize things that harm us all when we can help out the farmers who support a better life and environment for us all?

More articles by:
July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
George Ochenski
He Speaks From Experience: Max Baucus on “Squandered Leadership”
Ted Rall
Right Now, It Looks Like Trump Will Win in 2020
David Swanson
The Intelligence Community Is Neither
Andrew Moss
Chaos or Community in Immigration Policy
Kim Scipes
Where Do We Go From Here? How Do We Get There?
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail