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March 10, 2010


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A farmer friend of mine pointed out that those figures are most likely totally bogus...

"Here are the actual dollar amounts of Federal Ag subsidies paid to U.S. Farmers between 1995 and 2006 according to the Environmental Working Group's Farm Subsidy Database. (http://www.ewg.org):
1. Corn $56.1 billion
2.Wheat $22 billion
3. Cotton $21.3 billion
4. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) $ 20.3 billion
5. Disaster Payments $15.1 billion
6. Soybeans $14.2 billion
7. Rice $11 billion
8. Sorghum $4.5
9. Dairy Program $3.5 billion
10. Livestock $2.9 billion"

Anyone can make a pretty chart to say whatever they want it to say - you can't believe everything you read on the internet etc..


Thanks for chiming in.
I agree that the chart is a little deceptive. It's not like the government is spending the majority of the subsidies buying beef and chicken. I think the point of the chart is to say that when it comes to food, (the numbers you provide include some non-food subsidies) the farm bill is basically providing really cheap inputs to the feed lots in the form of corn and soy, making beef relatively cheap. And that is, for better or worse, shaping the foods we eat.

It's interesting that wheat appears to be a much larger recipient of proceeds than is represented in the chart. I wonder if the fact that the chart goes all the way back to 1995 impacts that.

Thanks for balancing things out.

food pyramid

What percent of people know that not following basic food pyramid can result in physio or psycho problems ?

Brad Wilson

The pyramid charts are another example of where the food movement is advocating FOR agribusiness, rather than against. By not knowing the economics and the policy, they advocate against their own values, and YES, this is spread widely across the internet. Basically, the chart first has the subsidies wrong, in that most go to commodity crops. But then subsidies don't make food cheap, they merely partly compensate farmers for reductions in prices. This is counter-intuitive, but true, and I show 4 proofs in "Michael Pollan Rebuttal." The subsidies also don't go to huge agribusiness, but rather mostly to family farms, though there is virtually no analysis of what farm sizes get them. In fact, most recipients are only 4% of the size of a minimum full-time family farm. The needed policies are to bring back price floors (raise grain,etc. prices) and supply management. To just get rid of subsidies is a zero price floor policy, like agribusiness wants. Click my name for the main links on all of this.

Brad Wilson

I should have mention that the general principle of the pyramids is correct, that federal farm products tends to send money to junk food companies (lower market prices paid to farmers), it's just not the presence of subsidies that does that, it's the reduction (1953-1995 and total absence (1996-) of price floors for the grain and oil crops, and for the livestock feeds for livestock grown off the land (not grassfed) in CAFOs.

Lee Einer

some of the comments here are misleading because livestock receives both direct and indirect subsidies. Most livestock is now fed on subsidized corn, so when you are eating a Big Mac or a whopper, your tax dollars not only subsidized the beef, but also for much of what that beef ate, effectively a double subsidy.

This is one of the reasons that meat production no longer happens much on the farm - the farmer can not feed livestock as cheaply on what he grows as agribusiness can feed it on subsidized corn. So we've effectively deconstructed the farm, the manure that should be going on the crops is now a biohazard at the CAFOs and a waste disposal problem, the cattle are sick from eating subsidized corn (ruminants didn't evolve to consume grains, they eat grasses) and it's just a heaping helping of stupid we've reaped through these particular subsidies.

And back to the fast food burger, your tax dollars also helped pay for the wheat in the bun, and for the high fructose corn syrup that is in the ketchup and the pickles, the soy oil that is in the mayo. So they really should just hand you that burger through the drive-in window for free.

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