Does the current bill reflect our values?
Why do so few crops get financial support from the Farm Bill?
Why don’t vegetables & fruits get near the support of corn, wheat and soy?
And by the way, who gets our money?
- pix by LSIC
In chapter 11, Imhoff throws out a lot of 2008 numbers as possible answers to these questions. I went looking for 2023 updates.
What crops does the Farm Bill support?
The Farm Bill favors four primary groups: food grains, animal feed grains, oilseeds (crops yielding oil such as rape, peanut, soybean) and upland cotton. Most are either fed to cattle in confinement, or processed into ethanol, oils, flours, starches, sugars, and industrial food additives.
This holds true today. “Of the $477.9 billion U.S. taxpayers paid for crop subsidies from 1995 – 2021, most went to production of just five crops: corn, cotton, wheat, rice and soybeans.
What are the leading farm commodities, in terms of cash receipts, in the United States?
The 10 largest sources of cash receipts from the sale of U.S.-produced farm commodities in 2021 were (in descending order): cattle/calves, corn, soybeans, dairy products/milk, broilers, hogs, miscellaneous crops, wheat, chicken eggs, and hay.
Who gets the money?
More than 65% of the Farm Bill subsidies went to the top eight states that are highest in commodity crop production.
- Graphic courtesy of Environmental Working Group
How much does California get?
California accounts for 12.5% of all agricultural production in the United States, and 7X more fruits and veggies than any other state. In any given year however, only about 10 percent of California's farmers receive direct subsidies.
- USDA totals; graphic courtesy of Global Trade Mag.com
Farm Bill purpose has dramatically changed over the last 4 decades. With price stabilization as the original goal, Feds would purchase excess grain during surplus and sell it back when supplies dwindle. After agriculture transitions to a big guys game, the winners buy monster equipment to fuel a mechanized food system aimed at processing wheat, corn and soy like widgets in a factory. It was cheap. It was abundant, and the artificially low prices nearly destroyed the family farm as we knew it, ushering in an era of bargain-basement “food stock” that unfortunately doesn’t feed us. Metabolically, science is debating if it's killing us.
What companies benefit from Farm Bill subsidies?
Overproduction of a few crops and artificially low prices benefit mega-farms, input suppliers like ADM and Cargill, and companies that use commodity grains to produce animal meats and processed food ingredients like corn syrup, extruded flours, and starch seasoned with sugar and salt.
Coke: saved $100 million on corn/high fructose corn syrup thanks to our tax dollars.
Tyson: one of the largest chicken producers, saved $300 million, also thanks to our tax dollars.
Farm Bill allows companies to buy feed for less than what it costs farmers to grow it and produce industrial ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, for pennies. (pg. 85)
– graphic courtesy of the Culinary Institute of America
I want my tax dollars to support better quality food. How can I express concerns to elected officials?
Food Party! reader Jessica from Stanford emailed over these links for comments and concerns. Please write a quick note to the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees and give feedback about your hopes for the 2023 Farm Bill.
United State Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry
House Committee on Agriculture