Farm Bill grows Big Macs
November 2, 2007
The Farm Bill, a massive piece of federal legislation making its way through Congress, governs what children are fed in schools and what food assistance programs can distribute to recipients. The bill provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which goes to huge agribusinesses producing feed crops, such as corn and soy, which are then fed to animals. By funding these crops, the government supports the production of meat and dairy products—the same products that contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease. Fruit and vegetable farmers, on the other hand, receive less than 1 percent of government subsidies.
The government also purchases surplus foods like cheese, milk, pork, and beef for distribution to food assistance programs—including school lunches. The government is not required to purchase nutritious foods.
The Perverse Pyramid
The Farm Bill’s skewed system of subsidies helps explain why unhealthy foods are often cheap and plentiful, while healthy foods are more expensive and less available. The priorities in the subsidy system stand in stark contrast to the federal government’s own advice on nutrition.
The Farm Bill Food Subsidies Breakdown:
Meat, Dairy: $51,832,388,116/73.80% (direct and indirect through feed)
Grains for Human Consumption: $9,288,990,323/13.23% (corn, wheat, sorghum, oats, rice, barley)
Sugar, Starch, Oil, Alcohol: $7,507,636,820/10.69% (corn, sugar beet, canola, 80% sunflower as oil)
Nuts and Legumes: $1,339,263,892/1.91% (soy, peanuts, 20% sunflower as seeds)
Total Agricultural Subsidies $70,229,820,137/100.00%
*This calculation applies only to domestic food consumption. Therefore, exports and corn grown for ethanol are excluded. Also excluded is any federal support not specified in Title I of the Farm Bill. Therefore, disaster payments, conservation payments, and purchases for food assistance programs are not included.