The latest edition of the federal farm bill, a 1,000-page tome that Congress produces every five years, continues an unbroken string of laws that would pour taxpayers' money into a system that helps big farms get bigger, gluts the market with starches, sweeteners and fats adding significantly to the girth of the average American and does little to encourage cultivation or consumption of foods that are better for you, in ways that are better for the Earth.
The bill that has come out of the Senate Agriculture Committee with bipartisan support, and may make its way to the Senate floor in days, is celebrated by its backers because it does eliminate the least-popular part of the process. Direct subsidies to growers of wheat, corn, rice, soybeans and cotton would be zeroed out, saving some $5 billion a year.
Those are or were taxpayer incentives that have pushed farmers to devote more and more acres to producing those easy-to-store crops at levels that far exceed the market's demand. Government subsidies have made up the difference when grain gluts lead to price crashes. Meanwhile, the flood of cheap commodities leads to the industrial-scale production of diabetes-inducing foodstuffs such as high fructose corn syrup, sweetened cereal and corn-fed beef.