Tag Archives: farm bill

You and the 2012 Farm Bill: a new perspective

  For those unfamiliar with this Bill, here is a quick look at what’s happening via two of my most abbreviated definitions: 1. We are all giving an awful lot of money to our government for them to pay large businesses to produce food that we get sick on. That’s pretty much the existing Farm Bill.  2. We give even more money to our government all over again, for them to pay for the health bills of all those people who eat all that bad food—which explains our national health insurance plan, and both are now unfortunately intertwined. Why do you need to be concerned about the Farm Bill? There are a few reasons: One is that you are paying for it—that should be reason enough. Additionally, it is being vastly misrepresented to the public and redrafted as we speak. It will go into effect next year. Less than 2% of the current Farm Bill is used to support vegetables, fruit, and nuts, most of the rest of the money is given to the meat and dairy industries, in one form or another.  All of the major changes proposed for this bill are aimed at taking away economic support from factory farms and providing more to small farmers—thinking this will produce healthier foods. Sounds good, doesn’t it? No, it’s not so good. Essentially, it will be a shift of money away from large meat and dairy operations to small meat and dairy operations—which is not a proper solution. When you hear about “farm subsidies” and “commodities”, it is this Bill that they are talking about. The original Farm Bill, most likely was once a good idea with humble beginnings in 1933 to help prop up farmers battling their way out of the Great Depression, but now it has evolved into a new definition of being disconnected. The current Bill is a 5 yr, $280 billion plan with 15 categories or “titles”, each with its own set of funds. You are hearing mostly about the $42 billion given as direct farm subsidies (these are for “commodities” or corn, wheat, soybeans, and another crops) and also about the $40 billion for two other Titles that provide various types of support such as crop insurances and land set aside programs. These three are the grouping of funds that have supported industrial farming the most in a direct fashion. But, $190 billion or 70% of the entire Farm Bill, is given to 43 million people enrolled in the food stamp program—and that Title has issues as well, but you won’t hear about them because it is more insidious and slides along unnoticed. OK, so what about the other 11 Titles? No one knows much about these because, at a meager $2 billion, they are not considered a problem. But I consider them extremely important. These Titles pertain to such things as conservation and environment, forestry, renewable energy, and research. In fact, if our government would have devoted more of the previous Farm Bills, essentially more of our tax dollars, to just two of those ‘menial’ categories—like, say, to environment and research—they may have discovered decades ago that we are growing our food all wrong. In fact, they would have found out that we are not growing food at all—we are growing livestock, and now fish. In order to move forward with the redrafting of the Farm Bill, a few things need to be sorted out. I’ll review the most important three: First, the Food Stamp program has no proper nutrition education or monitoring system so the program itself, is essentially contributing to our national health care costs and the perpetuation of producing unhealthy food because $190 billion is being spent, by those enrolled, on the cheapest and most readily accessible food possible—food produced with empty calories and from the meat and dairy industries.  Since this will continue to be the largest part of the Bill, it needs to be corrected at least as much as the other subsidy issues. Second, despite what the NY Times and other authors are saying, it needs to be clearly understood that Government subsidies by themselves do not cause obesity or any other disease. Proper food is out there. You just have to find it and create the demand. If we all decided to stop eating Twinkies today, they wouldn’t be made. Again, it begins with education. It begins with awareness—and the Farm Bill (subsidies) need to provide this awareness, before it does anything else. Third, all government funding should be for only those foods that are the healthiest for our environment and for ourselves—organically grown, plant-based foods. Farmers that grow them should be heavily supported and obviously benefit the most. Doing these three things would create the right environment for healthier food to be produced and for proper choices to be made. I encourage everyone to get involved with this. You have a voice but carefully examine what is being proposed because the movement to restructure this Bill is well underway and is quite strong but not in the right direction as I have pointed out here. Since the 2012 Farm Bill will become a reality as a successor to previously enacted Bills, we certainly need to address it right now. However, I have another solution that which would get us on the right track much quicker, while the Farm Bill chugs along—called an eco and health risk tax—which will be for another blog, and can also be found  in Comfortably Unaware.

 

Advertisements

Choosing To Become Obese

It’s about choosing foods.                                                                                              Beginning concepts:

Does high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and/or our government subsidies cause obesity? Michael Pollan has been telling us this and there were others before him. They also believe that HFCS and subsidies cause many of our other illnesses as well. They are so persuasive that even discussions about the 2012 Farm Bill have now been heavily focused on reducing subsidies for the production of HFCS, corn, and other commodity crops. That is fine in one manner, but their energies are focused on the wrong food product. Obesity now affects 400 million people in the world and nearly 40% of all adults in the U.S., but HFCS and our government subsidies do not cause obesity. You do. Well, actually your food choices do. Certainly lifestyle also plays a major role. But in our culture today, that may simply mean the more exercise you do, the more you can indulge in eating foods that are not healthy for you, thus developing choice patterns and essentially postponing some of the negative impact of these foods.

So, what do I mean that they are focused on the wrong food product? Simply, they need to direct more attention to the meat and dairy industries and here is why:

Processed and empty calorie foods are not healthy for you to eat and we all know this. But we cannot be overly focused on that issue without first addressing the many ill effects that eating animal products have. For instance, the consumption of meat has been found to increase the risk of obesity by 25-33% (Int. Journal of Obesity, 2009 and numerous other publications).  Additionally, Dr. Barnard with the PCRM (Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine) demonstrated that individuals who ate only plant-based foods had a 68% less risk of developing adult onset diabetes (which affects 25 million people in our country). Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year on health care costs related to these two conditions in the U.S. HFCS, while not healthy for you to consume in large quantities, is not contributing to Global Depletion (the loss of our primary resources on earth)—the meat, dairy, and fishing industries are. Therefore, if we want to reduce our potential for contracting a chronic disease and at the same time help our planet—let’s begin with addressing the food choice most responsible.

If we completely eliminate HFCS and processed foods from our diet as Mr. Pollan is campaigning for, that would be a good thing—but then clearly understand, that all the far more damaging and unsustainable practices of raising and eating livestock remain.

More will follow regarding food choices, the 2012 Farm Bill, and policies.