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Why do We Pay Agriculture Subsidies

Updated on November 6, 2016

What was in the last cart of groceries that you bought?

Were any of these items in your cart, milk, cereal, cheese and other dairy products, corn, wheat, pasta, meat, bakery products, soda with HFCS? All of these items are being subsidized by the government making payments to farmers. Think about the list for a moment and you realize that we taxpayers are footing a bill to subsidize the least healthy things in our diet. Items listed here are related to cholesterol problems, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. Over 75 percent of deaths in the U.S. are from diseases linked to an unhealthy diet.


USDA subsidies in the United States totaled $16.3 billion in 2009

In 2009, the top 10 percent of recipients were paid 61 percent of all USDA subsidies. $246.7 billion in subsidies 1995-2009. In the current budget cutting frenzy in Washington the poor and the sick and the elderly are being told they have to pay more and lose guaranteed benefits, to be replaced by vouchers. If they’re not able to find coverage, oh well, we need the money to cut taxes for the wealthy. How then do we even begin to rationalize billions being used to subsidize agriculture?

Heavily subsidized

In the US GMO products are pushed by Monsanto and approved by government
In the US GMO products are pushed by Monsanto and approved by government | Source
Farm animals eat the genetically modified and subsidized corn
Farm animals eat the genetically modified and subsidized corn | Source
Even wheat gets a subsidy
Even wheat gets a subsidy | Source

$1.3 Billion to People Who Don't Farm

The largest annual subsidy, called direct and countercyclical payments, is given to farmers regardless of what crops they grow or don’t grow. The Washington Post found that, between 2001 and 2006, at least $1.3 billion was paid to landowners who had planted nothing since 2000. Some recipients were homeowners in developments whose backyards used to be rice fields. The current program of direct payments was established by Congress in 1996 as a temporary program intended to wean producers off subsidies. The program has since been made permanent

Ethanol Plant in Indiana

The price of food is rising and we turn food into fuel rather than conserving
The price of food is rising and we turn food into fuel rather than conserving | Source

I want my subsidy

No Subsidies Here

Specialty Crops and the FDA

The USDA refers to fresh fruits and vegetables as “specialty crops.” Agricultural subsidies do NOT go to specialty crops.  Farmers who participate in commodity subsidy programs are generally prohibited from growing fruits and vegetables on the so-called “base acres” of land for which they receive subsidies. This provision, enacted in 1996, stops farmers from producing the very item which the FDA tells us are needed for a healthy diet. Alright, so grains are heavily subsidized, are they not the base of the USDA “Food Pyramid”? Yep, they sure are, but it might pay to look at the Harvard School of Public Health Food Pyramid. Reliance on grains as a food source is a source of elevated blood sugars, thus leading to much of the epidemic of diabetes we are seeing in this country. Also in the Harvard pyramid you will see that fruits and vegetables play a roll equal to grains and the grains need to be chosen for better properties, not just as a source of carbohydrates. How about a little more shocking news? A healthy life style includes exercise and healthy fats are just as important as fruits, vegetables and grains. That’s a lot to digest, and all you have to gain is good health.

GOP, cut subsidies? NO, NO, NO

No Subsidy Here Either

Fruits and vegetables,

Fruits and vegetables, ignored by subsidies, these contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Eating larger amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthful diet is likely to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, even including certain cancers. Most people should consume at least at least 4½ cups of vegetables and fruits a day. No, potatoes don't count, forget the extra large serving of fries, and even Ronald Reagan couldn’t get ketchup or pickle relish declared to be vegetables. We all need a variety of kinds and colors of produce, to give our bodies the mix of nutrients we need. Dark leafy greens, cooked tomatoes, and any vegetable that's a rich yellow, orange, or red color is an excellent choice to add to the diet every day. Fortified foods or supplements might be helpful in getting the nutrients you body needs but it pays to remember that many foods have been fortified because their original nutrients were stripped out as part of the processing. There is no substitute for whole natural foods.

Food Pyramids, Harvard and FDA

This one is actually good for you
This one is actually good for you
Was this influenced by big agri-business?
Was this influenced by big agri-business?
Olive oil is one of the good fats
Olive oil is one of the good fats

Fats and Oils

Fats and Oils, another essential in the diet, are ignored by subsidies. Use liquid plant oils for cooking and baking. Olive, canola, and other plant-based oils are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Avoid all Trans Fats, in the supermarket, read the label to find foods that are Trans-fat free. Fatty fish, walnuts, and canola oil all provide omega-3 fatty acids, the biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the mix of fats in your diet—not the amount of cholesterol you eat from food. Some say that canola oil causes diseases like joint pain, gum disease, constipation, heart disease and hearing loss. The truth is that canola oil contains unsaturated fat which has been proven to be beneficial to our health. Olive oil is also one of the healthiest oils containing monounsaturated fat, which can lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol in the blood.

CBS on Farm Subsidies

Here's your bill

Who Do You Believe?

On the other hand, the corn which was used to make the high fructose corn syrup which sweetened the soda your kids drank last night is highly subsidized. In 2005 we spent over 7 billion dollars subsidizing corn and feed crops, some of this corn went into your gas tank, some into your stomach as HFCS and some into feeding the farm animals you ate at dinner. As to using corn to make ethanol to fuel the family car, because ethanol is less efficient than gasoline it cuts mileage by about 4%. Increasing fuel mileage nationally by 0.4 miles per gallon would do the same as all the ethanol used in the U.S.

Even this is made with subsidized ingredients

Choices to be Made

There are choices to be made about who we elect and who we believe. The FDA food pyramid has been publicized and used for the basis for a healthy diet for many years. Approximately 66 percent of Americans are overweight or obese these conditions are linked to diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. About 33 percent of children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. The annual medical cost of diet related diseases has reached 481.3 billion annually. In 2009, we spent 4 billion just to subsidize corn and another 2 billion to subsidize wheat. Is this what we send our representatives to Washington to do?

The farm subsidy system often is touted by Congress as a way to save small family farms. Instead, those policies are killing small family farms because owners of large farms receive the most subsidies and the large farms are buying up the small family farms. Still, there are some farmers that say they depend on the subsidies to survive.

In a conservative political environment that worships so called “free markets” there can be no reason to bill tax payers to support farms which can’t support themselves. In a progressive political environment there can be no reason to support big business farms which rake in millions of our tax dollars to boost their profits. How can it be that the budget which was supported by All but 4 Republicans can cut taxes for millionaires, cut benefits for the ill and the elderly but continue paying big businesses farm subsidies? The land on which my own home is built was once part of a cattle ranch, am I owed a farm subsidy? After all, I’m not raising any cattle, where do I apply?

If you’re not sure how to reach you Senator or Congressman there is a directory at this address


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    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 17 months ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Amy

      Yeah we are slowly poisoning ourselves all in pursuit of profit

    • veganfitspiration profile image

      Amy 17 months ago from Colorado Springs

      Great article, from a free market standpoint to a health standpoint I am amazed that these food subsidies have continued so long. I recently wrote an article depicting the health implications of people consuming the subsidized foods if you are interested:

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 6 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx D, I agree completely. The trouble is, we all agree that the government messes things up, but the tea party wants to solve things by turning them over to business while we want to fix the problems with the government.


    • d.william profile image

      d.william 6 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Wonderful article. A lot of stuff i did not know. But i am not really surprised by any of it. Every thing this government does turns sour, and ends up making big bucks for the wealthy at the expense of those who can not afford it. This is just business as usual in Washington, D.C. Once this corruption sets in, no one dares to change, or amend it, as it just might piss off the wealthy, who will move all their farms to the 3rd world countries. This blackmail tactic is getting mighty old but still works for the GOP.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 6 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Faye, Yes, the only ones the teabaggers want to help are the ones with money.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      Excellent and informative hub, Chef. I wrote a hub about subsidies (I call them corporate welfare) that just touched on the farm subsidies, and the fishing subsidies, and the mining subsidies, and the water subsidies. Did I forget fossil fuels? It's ridiculous. And they worry about some poor mother getting food stamps!

      up and awesome.

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 6 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx for reading HS and Mimi

      The handouts to big business make the move to cut services to the poor and elderly ever more outrageous

    • Mimi721wis profile image

      Mimi721wis 6 years ago

      There are only a few small farms or family owned farms left. Most of our farms are corporate owned. The make millions and don't need these handouts. Guess whose pockets they are lining. Either the general public doesn't do any research or just don't care who's robbing us all blind.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Farm subsidies are an outgrowth of the New Deal gone wild. Farm subsidies are no longer needed because we have a thriving agricultural economy. They should be there as a backstop for future agricultural calamities but none are on the horizon. Unfortunately America's breadbasket has a lot of votes and Congress members in it. Great Hub.