Do farm subsidies cause obesity?
The paper includes evidence that removing subsidies would not make commodities scarcer or more expensive. For example, economists at the University of Tennessee found that if government subsidies were removed, the supply and price of commodity crops like corn would change very little, but U.S. farm incomes would decline by 25 to 30 percent. This would lead to more farmers going out of business and selling their land to larger agribusinesses, so there would be no reduction in supply, just a reduction in the number of small and midsized farms.
"Crop prices might be high now, but it's only a matter of time until they come crashing down. Until we restore government commodity programs that allow farmers to get a fair price for their crops, small and midsized farmers will always be one planting season away from going out of business," said Hauter. "Blaming subsidies for our broken food system only drives a wedge between the family farm community and public health advocates, which is not productive if we want to rebuild a healthy food system."
The paper concludes with several long- and short-term policy recommendations including:
- Engage in the long-term campaign to reform commodity policies by developing responsible federal supply management programs that reduce overproduction and stabilize price and supply, such as a grain reserve and land set-asides, undoing the damaging deregulation that took place in the 1980s and 90s.
- Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods through strategies that promote increased access and affordability for underserved communities and protect and strengthen federal food assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Expand the supply of healthy foods by helping farmers diversify their production and supply local and regional markets with healthy food.
- Build the infrastructure needed to better link farmers and consumers and aid in the delivery of healthy foods.
The paper and a corresponding issue brief can be downloaded at http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/do-farm-subsidies-cause-obesity.