Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thinking About The Farm Bill

The National Farm Bill's part of the defining "system" settings for how farms can innovate by virtue of "big dials" in the subsidy and tax mechanisms.

Michael Pollan, notes that:

"the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did.

The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow."

From: New York Times Magazine, April 22, 2007
The Way We Live Now: You Are What You Grow
By Michael Pollan
Will this year's farm bill make us fatter and sicker?

Pollan goes into far more depth in his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, I found it a slog but a valuable reference piece. Very worthwhile writing, though, and I think it is a "must read" for the, searching for right word.... conversations based upon data rather than belief. You'll catch many of the book's key points in the above article.

NB: He snipes at Twinkies, but thank goodness he did not dis Moon Pies and RC.

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