Why is healthy food so expensive? Learn about the Farm Bill
What is The Farm Bill?
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.
News - A Chronoligical Listing of News Items Concerning the Farm Bill
- US Offers Lower Limit For Farm Subsidies - Associated Press, July 22, 2008
WTO talks are currently underway, with US farm subsidies and emerging markets industrial goods markets being debated. The US has offered to cut $1.4 billion from agricultural subsidies, but other countries don't feel that is enough.
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.
- 2006 Farm Subsidies - Environmental Working Group
This site is a goldmine for anyone interested in who is benefiting the most from the US Farm Bill. Just click on a state on the map for quick info about the monetary amount of subsidies given to that state between 1995 - 2006, what percentage of fa
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.
- Agricultural Subsidies
The US Farm Bill determines the amount and distribution of agricultural subsidies, among other things. Read what Wikipedia has to say about what subsidies are.
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?
- What Americans Think About Farm Subsidies - Steven Kull, 2004
How does the average American feel about agricultural subsidies? There is an overwhelming consensus amongst Americans regarding their feelings about how and when agricultural subsidies should be distributed. Sadly, this does not seem to be in line wi
- The Bipartisan Folly of Farm Subsidies - Jacob Sullum, May 14, 2008
In addition to pointing out how the median income for farmers is higher than the median income for non-farmers, and how wealthy farmers are more than 5 times wealthier than their non-farming counterparts, this article by Jacob Sullum lists Barack Oba
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.
- Answers.com - Agricultural Subsidies
The only thing I've found so far on line that could remotely be described as being in support of current US Farm Subsidies is this article on Answers.com. It is not in support of agricultural subsidies, however, remaining unbiased and pointing out th
Cons - Arguments Against Agricultural Subsidies
Some articles definitely against the current US Farm Bill and agricultural subsidies in general.
- Farm Subsidies for Millionaires, Brian M. Riedl, July 26, 2007
This article describes agricultural subsidies as corporate welfare. Listing some of the main benefactors of current US agricultural policies ('hobby farmers' and large agribusiness Fortune 500 companies), alternatives are offered to the subsidy plan
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?
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?
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!
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