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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
  • Price: Free download
  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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  • Number of pages: 2

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Introducing cheap corn production to America's diet has caused too much corn intake. Under that kind of subsidy, the government pays farmers extra when market prices are low, and they pay based on how much a farmer grew that year. But while deficiency payments can help struggling farmers during a market slump, they also create a strong incentive for farmers to plant as much as possible, since they'll get paid whether they can sell it or not. And at that time, Americans were worried about scarcity and running out of food; growing as many calories as possible was a good thing.  While deficiency-payment subsidies stabilize farmers' incomes, they also lead to overproduction. That creates a surplus, which in turn depresses prices. Other kinds of farm subsidies have far milder effects on consumer prices. The 2014 Farm Bill expanded crop insurance, and based deficiency payments not on a specific year's production, but on historic yield. Although those subsidy designs can encourage production, the effect of each is much smaller than that of deficiency payments. Because subsidized corn is so cheap, there is an excessive amount of corn in American's food. The unnecessary amounts of corn intake open Americans to the possibility of obesity and weight gain, the subsidized corn industry has become a monopoly and there is an excessive amount of sick livestock because we give animals pharmaceuticals to keep them alive.

Market monopolies and not subsidies are the biggest threat to economic sustainability in world agricultural markets, says an international expert. Belgium-based AgriCord managing director Ignance Coussement said the existence of the monopolies made it difficult for smaller farmers around the world to compete against larger scale "industrialised' farmers within a nation's domestic market. AgriCord managing director Ignance Coussement says "the biggest danger comes from monopolies, from agri-industries that are too strong and control markets [that] control every aspect of marketing" (NZ Farmer). From an economic purist's perspective, subsidies were very important to introduce change in the way industries were working and the products that were produced but in reality "In theory, subsidies should not be maintained over the long term" Simeonova said (NZ Farmer). More than in other industries, prices are government controlled. Government farm subsidies are notoriously skewed toward larger farm operators - one dollar of every two dollars goes to the top four percent; eight dollars of every ten dollars to the top percent. Some of these subsidies even go abroad. For example, in order to avoid trade sanctions under World Trading Organization (WTO) rules, the US government pays $147 million a year to Brazilian cotton producers, so that it can continue to subsidize US cotton producers. There is also the usual toll from fraud or inattention. Over the first ten years of the 2000s, more than $1 billion was paid to deceased farmers, a fifth of them dead for at least seven years. Payments are not only highly concentrated in terms of recipients. "They are also highly concentrated by crop: 90% went to support just five crops: corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, and rice; 30% to corn alone (California Policy Center)".

Over the years, tightening government regulations have shut down most local, small slaughter houses. It is more convenient for USDA inspectors to visit a few giant operations. This and other policies have also encouraged the growth of huge factory farms for chickens, eggs, hogs, and other animal products. These operations, usually called Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), squeeze animals into smaller and smaller spaces, creating pitiful conditions, mountains of excrement, and uncontrollable sanitation problems. People are open to many diseases this way. Also, powerful food companies wanted to sell pizza or potatoes, and the government wanted to dump its own surplus meat, and school children were an easy target. Feedlot-raised animals are kept indoors for the majority of the year, and they are given feed formulated to speed their growth to market weight and supply them with essential nutrients, while minimizing costs to operators. Concerns have arisen about the content of these feeds, however, as grain-based diets can produce serious and sometimes fatal digestive tract problems in food animals such as cows, goats, and sheep whose stomachs are best suited to digesting high-cellulose containing plants like grass (Grace Communications Table). Although cheap feed grains mean lower meat and dairy prices for consumers, meat from grass fed animals is often lower in saturated fat than meat from grain fed animals. The FDA has reported that lowering the percentage of calories consumed from saturated fats may reduce the risk of heart disease.  While there is still more research to be done to examine the potential health benefits of consuming grass-fed beef, initial findings indicate that other nutrients found in grass fed beef may be beneficial to the health of the consumer. Pesticides have been shown to build-up in the fatty tissues of animals, potentially exposing consumers to these chemicals via consumption of food animals that have consumed grains treated with these chemicals, even when care is taken to eliminate contamination during processing. Exposure to pesticide has been shown to negatively affect reproductive, nervous and immune system functions, as well as increase the risk of developing cancer, which can have a negative effect on the human who consumes it.

We're handing out taxpayer subsidies to big agribusinesses to help subsidize junk food. Huge, profitable corporations like Cargill and Monsanto are pocketing tens of billions in taxpayer dollars, and turning subsidized crops into junk food ingredients including high fructose corn syrup . . . at a time when one in three kids is overweight or obese, and obesity-related diseases like diabetes are turning into an epidemic. "If federal agricultural subsidies went directly to taxpayers to allow them to purchase food, each of America's 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year—enough to buy 19 Twinkies but less than a quarter of one Red Delicious apple a piece (California Policy Center)." This is significant because that leaves more room in the average American's diet to consume junk food, that is high in high fructose corn syrup and can lead to diseases like diabetes. Bad health can be linked to wheat, corn, dairy and meat—and a range of foods currently subsidized by the government. There has been a study showing a correlation between an increased consumption of subsidized foods and health problems like obesity and high cholesterol. The National Geographic did a study in which they found that "the people who ate the most subsidized food had a 41 percent greater risk of belly fat, 37 percent high risk of obesity, 34 percent higher risk for elevated inflammation, and 14 percent higher risk of abnormal cholesterol (National Geographic)." We must be aware of what we eat and what we allow into our bodies. By doing so, we can significantly decrease our chances of allowing such diseases to take over our bodies.

The overreliance on grain-based animal feeds in industrial food animal production has negative consequences for animal health, the environment, and even human health. Considering the natural eating habits of livestock animals when formulating animal feeds would be beneficial to both animals and consumers, and will result in healthier herds and flocks, less reliance on antibiotics to control disease, as well as a lower chance of introducing certain pathogens into society via contaminated meat. Many environmentalists opposed farm subsidies for different reasons. Corn and wheat programs came under attack by environmental groups. These groups claimed that the base acreage and deficiency payment system encouraged farmers to produce soil-depleting and erosion-prone crops such as corn year after year, even if the market offered a better price for a different crop.

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