Friday, October 12, 2012

Farm Subsidies

I don't know what the situation is like outside of the US, but here there is a department of the government called the USDA (US department of agriculture) that actually helps the farmer's market their products and subsidizes them by giving them favorable tax rates, cheap or free loans and discounts on supplies and labor.

Most of these subsidized farmers are not growing food for direct human consumption, they are either raising animals for human consumption or they are growing plant foods such as soy and corn for animal consumption. Almost all of the animal derived products are subsidized.

This is why when looking at a menu in a restaurant, especially the fast food ones, the prices for the animal product foods, which contain meat, eggs and dairy are often unbelievably cheap. We've all heard of the dollar menus at all of the fast food outlets. Notice that there is never a salad on the dollar menu, unless that salad contains cheese and meat or eggs.

The foods that are grown and sold directly to humans for human consumption are hardly ever subsidized and therefore are more expensive than the animal foods. By far these foods are healthier to humans and the environment. Why then does the government want us to eat the unhealthy foods?

It all comes down to who the stakeholders are and how much pull they have. The ranchers get all the subsidies because they are supported by the large conglomerates such as the meat packers and the beef board. There are hardly any large conglomerates supporting the healthy plant based foods.

In order to make ends meet for many people who live close to the poverty line, they must consume the cheapest foods they can find. In most cases they will not even be able to buy healthy fruits and vegetables because they are too expensive. They get most of their calories from the subsidized animal foods.

This leads to poor health, an environment that is falling apart, plus an unsustainable economy that depends on the subsidies of the government to survive. These products should not be subsidized at all and instead they should be taxed by the government just like tobacco products are. Tobacco products are known to cause serious health problems in their users, similar to animal food products.

The system is backwards and these subsidies need to be reversed and changed into taxes. This would improve health of the population just because these people will eventually start to buy the cheaper plant based products when the animal foods will cost more. It will also allow plant based food products to compete with animal based foods so that people would be able to choose.