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Why is healthy food so expensive? Learn about the Farm Bill

Updated on June 12, 2013

What is The Farm Bill?

The farm bill was created in response to the Great Depression of the 1930s, assisting farmers and rural communities.

Originally authorized in 1949, US Congress rewrites many components of the Farm Bill every 4 to 6 years. The Farm Bill consists of both "mandatory" programs (considered to be permanent law) and "discretionary programs".

The US Farm Bill is about more than just what foods are subsidized and who receives those subsidies. It also governs the food stamp program, school lunches and more. In other words, it is not just of interest to farmers!

There is a great misconception that the Farm Bill helps out small farmers and is vital to helping the little guys stay afloat during crop failures due to natural disasters.

This lens hopes to bring to light the fact that the greatest amount of this taxpayer-funded program goes to large agribusiness companies, who in turn buy out the small farmers. Subsidies are sometimes several million dollars and are paid annually, whether there is a crop failure or not. Some of the recipients are city folk who never venture anywhere near a farm, simply renting out the land to farmers.

While commodity crops such as corn and wheat are highly subsidized, fruits and vegetables are categorized as "specialty crops" and receive minimal funding. There is also limited funding available for organic and sustainable farming practices. This artificial tampering with the free market means that no matter how high consumer demand is for organic fruits and vegetables, it will remain unprofitable for farmers to comply with demand. Instead they will continue to grow more and more corn, that appears as more and more high fructose corn syrup in processed foods. All the while, prices for organic produce remain artificially, yet justifiably high.

Learn about agricultural subsidies in general, the history of the US Farm Bill, current statistics on this Bill, who supports it and who doesn't.

Afterwards, take part in the poll and say what you believe about this important issue.

Just the facts - Interesting Information About the US Farm Bill

Looking around the internet, you can discover alot. Here are some interesting, and factual, websites with information about the US Farm Bill, who is getting what, and where that money comes from.

Subsidies are more than just a debated topic. They're also a little difficult to understand sometimes! Get some background info on the Farm Bill, its history and the theories behind it.

King Corn - a feature documentary from mosaic films, inc.

King Corn tells the story of 1-acre of subsidized corn grown by Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis in rural Iowa. They do a fantastic job of following that acre of genetically-modified "Liberty" corn from the seed all the way to its eventual place as cattle feed and high fructose corn syrup.

The film has a companion website gives further information on how much of the corn grown in the midwest is not sweet corn as we know it, but rather is a bland, modified product that will be processed for use in fast food and sweeteners, as well as for (unhealthy and unnatural) use as cattle feed.

Changing the federal farm policy that drives this cycle doesn't necessarily mean that food will get more expensive. Those corn subsidies can be turned into federal support for other, more healthful foods. In the future, maybe consumers can get discounts on strawberries and zucchinis, rather than sodas and cheeseburgers. Making food affordable is smart and necessary, but making healthful food affordable is even more crucial."

What We Think About The Farm Bill and Subsidies - Who stands where

Now that you know a little more about the Farm Bill and agricultural subsidies, see who agrees with you. What does the average American think about subsidies? What do our elected officials do about agricultural subsidies? Are there any groups that advocate change of the Farm Bill's contents?

Pros - Arguments in support of agricultural subsidies

Showing both sides of the argument, we've dug up a few articles in praise of the US' current Farm Bill and agricultural subsidies in general.

Cons - Arguments Against Agricultural Subsidies

Some articles definitely against the current US Farm Bill and agricultural subsidies in general.

Do you support the current state of farm subsidies or would you like to see reform? - Yay or nay.

Do you think the US Farm Bill is doing an adequate job? Do we need these subsidies to keep the market stable and keep our prices globally competitive? Should we do away with the current system and limit subsidies to small farmers and then, only award subsidies in cases of natural disasters causing crop failures?

How do you think the US Farm Bill should be handled?

See results

How much of an impact does the Farm Bill have on your life? - Will you be worried about it or not?

With the rising prices of food and the economy in disrepair, the food bill should probably be a main topic in the upcoming US Presidential election. Do you care what happens with the Farm Bill? Or maybe other issues are more important. What do you think?

Should the US Farm Bill receive more attention than it is?

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Have you learned anything about the farm bill? Do you intend to do anything about it? Is this an important issue in your eyes? Let everyone know!

Contact Laura Schofield

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What do you think? - Your place to sound off.

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    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 9 years ago

      Interesting--I hadn't heard about the Farm Bill. I like it in the summers when the roadside markets are open--that's the best time to get deals on fresh produce and other munchies. :)

    • OldGrampa profile image

      OldGrampa 9 years ago

      Excellent lens and a very important topic for people to be aware of! The truth is that the wealthy get most of this money and the public should be made aware of that.