Well, a subsidy is a safety net paid by the government to provide financial
incentives for farmers to grow certain crops in the place of others. Because farmers can only plant so many crops, these subsidies basically dictate what farmers will grow.
Over the past 15 years, our government paid nearly $150 billion in subsidies to U.S. farmers: $77 billion to plant corn between 1995 and 2010; $32.4 billion to plant wheat; and $24.4 billion to plant soybeans. Every last penny of that money came from American taxpayers. The question: did we receive any benefit at all from these subsidies?
The use of subsidies is controversial because they mess with the balance between supply (crops) and (market) demand for the food and fuel they produce. This manipulation of the market has a number of benefits for taxpayers, like keeping the prices of subsidized crops (corn, wheat and soy) low and the economic ripple effects that follow.
The basic math behind subsidies is that in a perfect world, taxpayers see a 100% return investment, because of the surplus of the subsidized crop (let’s say corn, for instance). If every farmer plants corn, there will be a surplus, which keeps prices low. BUT!! Because there is such a surplus, corn then becomes a commodity, and therefore isn’t used for just food, but for fuel (and feed). This low cost corn is supposed to keep ethanol (gas) prices low, however, what it really does is line the pockets of corporations and increase profit margins.
In a nutshell, we have a surplus of these three crops-- two of which are GMO btw—so these three items are ridiculously cheap, and therefore can be used as an ingredient to virtually make all kinds of processed food items at a ridiculously low price. Get it? This is why junk food is so cheap: because most junk foods are made from these three subsidized items that manufacturers get on the cheap (corn, soy, wheat) which helps them make profits. It is also why fruits and vegetables are NOT cheap, because they are NOT subsidized. And it is why “factory-farmed” beef, chicken and pork are cheap, because they are fed these cheap subsidized items too.
So now you have a little background of why our (food) system is so incredibly bass-ackward.
Thanks for reading,
"Planting your nutrition seed for the day."