29 May 2007

public policy is killing us

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, rails further against the inanity of the farm subsidy policy. basically, our food supply if fudged because of the unintended (?) consequences resulting from the outrageous subsidies that artificially prop up the corn and soy lobby, driving prices down on junk fude.
the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.
rather than attack the "obesity epidemic" at its source, our leaders are searching for more artificial means of controlling the economy. that's good news for the high-fructose corn industry. just read a few of the labels in your pantry; that shiz is everywhere, even in some of the "healthful" bread you've bought.

Pollan also links immigration issues and international farming issues to subsidies in the US. farmers here are able to sell their products cheaper across borders than the cost of production, driving foreign farmers out of business and contributing to increased immigration.

i have concerns about property rights, too, since agri-policy largely controls what happens on private land. there doesn't appear to be a limit to the lengths my neighbors will go to in order to control each other.
Americans may tell themselves they don’t have a national land-use policy, that the market by and large decides what happens on private property in America, but that’s not exactly true. The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America: whether it will be farmed or left wild, whether it will be managed to maximize productivity (and therefore doused with chemicals) or to promote environmental stewardship. The health of the American soil, the purity of its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no small part to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill.
ignoring the fact that corn-based ethanol is a complete crock, increased demand on corn drives up prices on corn itself, corn-based meat (beef, chicken...), fuel, etc. corn chemistry has worked its way into so many crannies of the US economy, we should fear a collapse. growing corn for ethanol also eliminates land usable for growing real food, which could drive up costs for other foods.


  1. mmmm... liqiufied corn. I have to say, I was really shocked about the cost of soda's going down by 23%. I assume that's adjusted against inflation, and not just down overall, still suprising though.

  2. Yeah, I've known about high fructose corn syrup for a long time. It's amazing how many foods it's in: breads, cookies, drinks... It's one reason you never see me drinking soda. (I also avoid caffeine and aspartame -- 2 other reasons.)

  3. IF the gubmint were extremely wise and benevolent, I could possibly see federal land planning as being justifiable. Given that it is anything but wise, and very often corrupt and hostile, such planning makes no sense at all.