December 3, 2008

December 3, 2008 | White Paper on Agriculture

U.S. Farm Policy: Subsidizing Poor Health?

The law of unintended consequences holds that even well intentioned policies can have adverse effects.  Just as U.S. farm policy may have helped American farmers become the most productive cultivators on the planet and contributed to low food prices across the country, America's system of crop subsidies also may be contributing to poor health.[1]  Ninety-percent of all subsidies support just five crops (Markheim and Riedl, 2007).  By artificially lowering the price of certain foods in the marketplace, subsidies have encouraged excessive consumption of these foods and have changed the way Americans eat.  Nowhere is this phenomenon more evident than with corn and corn-based products, such as the now ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

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[1]Following the conclusion of this study, the author plans on examining the environmental impact of U.S. Farm Policy.  It has been well documented that the incentive structure put in place by farm subsidies leads farmers to focus on a few commodity crops and use petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides to replenish nutrients in the soil (as opposed to crop rotation).  The amount of fossil fuels used to grow food in America is second only to the amount of petroleum used for personal automobiles.