Ever notice that unhealthy foods are cheaper than healthy foods? You may think nothing of it, but our government policies and practices help lower the prices of unhealthful foods. Since the 1920s, American farmers have received government subsidies to help maximize production, reduce cost of raw materials, stabilize crop prices and keep the cost of food down for the American public, allowing farmers to stay in business. This originally well-intentioned government money has led to the overproduction of corn and soybeans, and consequently, lower prices for these crops and foods containing them as ingredients. This may seem harmless. Corn and soybeans are healthy, right?
In their natural states, these foods are not bad, but the outcome of the overproduction of these crops has led to their increased use as cheap, unhealthy ingredients found in processed foods on the grocery store aisles. High fructose corn syrup—an artificial ingredient found in most sodas and junk foods—is an inexpensive use of corn. Low corn prices have led to artificially low meat prices, because corn has become the number one feed for cattle—a major shift from a traditional grazing diet. The overproduction of soybeans and corn provides an inexpensive way to add flavor to packaged junk food, fast food, corn-fed beef and pork, and soft drinks. For consumers, these less nutritious foods are cheaper, and particularly tempting to people living on a budget. These subsidies contribute to the obesity epidemic by making it cheaper to produce and purchase unhealthy, packaged foods.
As a result of the subsidies, growing fruits, vegetables and other grains is less lucrative for farmers. Less than ten percent of USDA subsidies are spent
on fruits and vegetables. We should be asking why vegetables, fruits and whole grains aren’t heavily subsidized so they can be cheaper and more accessible to everyone. Obviously, this change in policy would go a long way in helping Americans follow their own government’s nutritional guidelines. This disparity in government funding points out an awkward truth about the USDA: what it urges people to eat does not match what it pays farmers to grow.
Another influential factor is political campaign contributions. Dependence on financial contributions from powerful lobbies prevents government agencies from stating the simple truths about nutrition. Politicians say the money they receive from corporate donors does not influence the policies they promote, but why would companies give money if this were true? Corporations are not known for their spontaneous generosity. Politicians need a lot of money to get elected, and food and drug companies are some of their biggest backers. McDonald’s, Pepsi, General Mills, Kraft, Nestlé and Hershey depend on their friends in Washington, who make the food laws and guidelines. The top contributors to the former chairman of the Agricultural Committee, Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), were American Crystal Sugar, Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’Lakes, National Beer Wholesalers Association, United Egg Association and Dean Foods.Of course, they want some return on their investment here.
We’re on to you!
So don’t expect the government to feed you good food, do the research yourself and feed your family better food.