Congress Environment Food Government Opinion Politics Pollution

The Corn, Wheat, Soybeans and Cotton Diet

Do you qualify for farm bill subsidies? Do you own acreage in Arkansas or Kansas or Iowa which your parents farmed and you inherited and you work in New York City as an attorney? If you do, you may be eligible for government payouts for the farm in Arkansas. Wow, what a bonus and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty.

Seventy percent of the payout from the Farm Bill that just passed in the House goes to 10% of our nations farms. Ken Cook explains in an interview in Mother Jones:

Mother Jones: There’s an impression that the farm bill is all that keeps farmers in overalls riding tractors from falling over the precipice. How accurate is that?

Ken Cook: The farm bill does definitely provide help to a lot of family farmers of exactly the type we conjure up in American Gothic style. That’s not the problem with the bill. The problem is that so much of the money that goes out through these farm programs goes to very large, commercial operations that are getting bigger all the time and basically buying up those family farms with the mom and pop in overalls working dawn to dusk. Ten percent of the beneficiaries over the last ten years have gotten over 70 percent of the subsidy money. And so the concern, which, interestingly enough, we shared most with the White House this time around, was that too much money is being funneled to large, profitable farming operations.

Would this have an impact on the “Buy Local” movement? You bet it does. More from the interview:

KC: The first thing to keep in mind is that two-thirds of the farmers counted by the census of agriculture do not get farm bill subsidies. So most farmers don’t get anything. They’re small, they grow fruits and vegetables, raise cattle or horses, they live in rural areas and maybe raise a little hay and sell it. They’re often not full-time operators — most farms are not — and they get no money. And even within the third that does get money from farm bill subsidy programs, the very large ones dominate. And it’s getting more and more concentrated all the time.

I’m not exactly a free trader here, but I am sympathetic to the argument that at some point these big operators ought to be on their own. They’re so big and so efficient and so effective at their work. We ought to reserve some of the money that we’re saying we’re giving to family farmers that are smaller and struggling and actually give it to them. And let the big guys roll the dice on the world market if they want to.

So what type of food products receive the biggest subsidy? Let’s start with the one that receives the most… corn. Since we now use corn for bio-fuels, the demand in this country has increased so the large farms that grow all this corn can raise their prices. That means less corn for cattle and less corn to sell to the world market. Even though the farmers that are growing the corn, genetically modified by the way, are having larger profit margins, our government feels the need to send these farmers more money.

What about nutrition? Does this bill supplement the growing of nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruits? What about the American diet?

KC: It doesn’t really do very much. There is a lot of talk about nutrition from supporters of the bill because they are trying to make the suggestion that we’re spending a lot more money on fruits and vegetables for schools and we’re doing a lot more in general to promote farmers’ markets and so on. But when you look at the numbers, the investments here are really very minimal compared to the money we are still going to be lavishing on the subsidy lobby.

There’s an environmental price to pay for all this corn growing. Not only does this Farm Bill subsidize the growing of grain, it offers $3.8 billion in permanent disaster program which will mostly effect the driest parts of the country. Basically, it encourages farmers to plow up fragile grasslands which will release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroy wildlife habitats and cause erosion. This practice would not be good for all living things, including us. It’s a temporary financial gain for long term destruction to the environment.

So why aren’t more small farmers and environmentalist having an impact on this bill? Because the squeaky wheel gets the oil. The corn, wheat, soybean and cotton industry has lobbyists that won’t quit. They keep pounding away at Congress until they get what they want. The smaller farmer doesn’t have the finances or the time to compete with the subsidy lobby.

Is this farm bill better than others? Not really. There’s been momentum in this country to support the smaller farmers and this bill fails in that respect. Also, commodity prices have never been higher so profits are up, way up and our government doesn’t need to spend $5 billion on subsidies with $3 billion of that money going just to corn growers.

This bill is a sellout to the commodity growers and is a nose thumbing to the small farmers. We must continue to work at the local level because this is the only place that we can have an impact. Support your local farmer because they are the farmers that will be providing us with healthy foods. Buy local. Keep the money in your own community.

BONUS link: No till farming in Australia

By Cats r Flyfishn

Never look down on someone unless you are helping them up.

One reply on “The Corn, Wheat, Soybeans and Cotton Diet”

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