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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Who Gets the Money? Farm Bill (part 6)

Uploaded: Mar 27, 2023
Follow the yellow husk trail; a corn-lined money route leading a chosen few to pots of gold. Food Fight encourages eaters and readers to explore how our money is being spent. In Cool Cuisine, Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming (Stec/Cordero) we reported taxpayers paid $250 annually, 2008-value, to beef up the U.S. agricultural system’s main sugar-daddy, the Farm Bill.

Does the current bill reflect our values?

Why do so few crops get financial support from the Farm Bill?

Why don’t vegetables & fruits get near the support of corn, wheat and soy?

And by the way, who gets our money?

- pix by LSIC

In chapter 11, Imhoff throws out a lot of 2008 numbers as possible answers to these questions. I went looking for 2023 updates.

What crops does the Farm Bill support?

The Farm Bill favors four primary groups: food grains, animal feed grains, oilseeds (crops yielding oil such as rape, peanut, soybean) and upland cotton. Most are either fed to cattle in confinement, or processed into ethanol, oils, flours, starches, sugars, and industrial food additives.

This holds true today. “Of the $477.9 billion U.S. taxpayers paid for crop subsidies from 1995 – 2021, most went to production of just five crops: corn, cotton, wheat, rice and soybeans.

What are the leading farm commodities, in terms of cash receipts, in the United States?

The 10 largest sources of cash receipts from the sale of U.S.-produced farm commodities in 2021 were (in descending order): cattle/calves, corn, soybeans, dairy products/milk, broilers, hogs, miscellaneous crops, wheat, chicken eggs, and hay.

Who gets the money?

More than 65% of the Farm Bill subsidies went to the top eight states that are highest in commodity crop production.

- Graphic courtesy of Environmental Working Group

How much does California get?

California accounts for 12.5% of all agricultural production in the United States, and 7X more fruits and veggies than any other state. In any given year however, only about 10 percent of California's farmers receive direct subsidies.

- USDA totals; graphic courtesy of Global Trade Mag.com

Farm Bill purpose has dramatically changed over the last 4 decades. With price stabilization as the original goal, Feds would purchase excess grain during surplus and sell it back when supplies dwindle. After agriculture transitions to a big guys game, the winners buy monster equipment to fuel a mechanized food system aimed at processing wheat, corn and soy like widgets in a factory. It was cheap. It was abundant, and the artificially low prices nearly destroyed the family farm as we knew it, ushering in an era of bargain-basement “food stock” that unfortunately doesn’t feed us. Metabolically, science is debating if it's killing us.

What companies benefit from Farm Bill subsidies?

Overproduction of a few crops and artificially low prices benefit mega-farms, input suppliers like ADM and Cargill, and companies that use commodity grains to produce animal meats and processed food ingredients like corn syrup, extruded flours, and starch seasoned with sugar and salt.

Coke: saved $100 million on corn/high fructose corn syrup thanks to our tax dollars.

Tyson: one of the largest chicken producers, saved $300 million, also thanks to our tax dollars.

Farm Bill allows companies to buy feed for less than what it costs farmers to grow it and produce industrial ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, for pennies. (pg. 85)

– graphic courtesy of the Culinary Institute of America

I want my tax dollars to support better quality food. How can I express concerns to elected officials?

Food Party! reader Jessica from Stanford emailed over these links for comments and concerns. Please write a quick note to the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees and give feedback about your hopes for the 2023 Farm Bill.

United State Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry

House Committee on Agriculture

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Rebecca Wilcox, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Mar 27, 2023 at 8:32 am

Rebecca Wilcox is a registered user.

The commercial food industry is promoted by lobbyists who in turn 'convince' politicians to vote for legislation and federal allocations that favor their businesses.

The result is cheaply mass-produced food products that yield maximum corporate profits.

For example, Coca Cola produced in the United States uses corn syrup as a sweetener while Coca Cola produced in Mexico uses cane sugar. The Mexican-made Coke tastes far better than its American counterpart but costs more.

Production speed is also paramount which explains why most commercially produced meat is filled with growth-enhancing steroids and anti-biotics.

Blame the CEOs of these large businesses and the stockholders seeking maximum dividends. Most do not care about food safety or nutritional values.

Lastly, assign some additional blame to our Congressional representatives who are bought and sold like the agricultural subsididies they support.

It's all politics and payola.

Posted by Melissa Whalen, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 27, 2023 at 10:25 am

Melissa Whalen is a registered user.

The President of the United States should serve as a national spokesperson for healthier eating.

But that is not going to happen because:

(1) President Reagan's favorite snack was Jelly Bellies (aka processed sugar).
(2) President George H.W. Bush detested broccoli and preferred pork rinds as his snack of choice.
(3) President Bill Clinton favored Big Macs and a large order of fries.
(4) President George W. Bush preferred Mexican-style pizza with chorizo.
(5) President Obama's favorite food was cheese-laden, ground beef nachos.
(6) President Donald Trump always had KFC on Air Force One or take-out from Burger King.
(7) President Joe Biden's chose
ice cream as his favorite food.

Not one has ever opted for carrot/celery sticks, tofu, or fresh fruit.

If the leaders of our great nation prefer cholesterol-laden junk food with minimal nutritional value why should we expect anything different from ordinary American citizens?

Posted by Bill Taylor, a resident of another community,
on Mar 27, 2023 at 10:45 am

Bill Taylor is a registered user.

The triangles make sense because they serve the best interests of American dining needs.

From a performance perspective, only a handful of former, professional, and successful athletes are vegetarians...Bill Walton (basketball) , Mike Tyson (boxing), Venus Williams (tennis), and Tony Gonzales (football).

To build proper musculature, most athletes need the protein that comes from consuming meat.

Tofu is not the remedy or a viable meat substitute for most serious athletes.

Posted by Marlon Prescott, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Mar 27, 2023 at 1:42 pm

Marlon Prescott is a registered user.

Why not reduce farm subsidies and increase the monthly allotment for SNAP recipients?

Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Mar 28, 2023 at 4:05 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Dear Readers, Thanks for reading. We are called The Food Party! because we like like to have fun. We’d like to talk about positive ways to make our communities better.

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