The Farm Bill, a bill written in the 1930’s that subsidizes farmers for certain crops like corn and soy while also funding SNAP (a.k.a. food stamps), is likely to come up for renewal in Congress next year.
A panel of experts spoke about the challenges to reforming this bill recently at the Harvard School of Public Health. Follow the link above the picture for the Harvard Gazette story.
Here’s the thing: this bill was written at a time when a good, nutritious meal was ‘meat and potatoes’. Thanks in large part to Walter Willett, furthest left in the picture above, the Yosemite Sam of nutrition research at HSPH (he shoots holes in lots of government-funded nutrition information – plus that mustache!), we now know more about what constitutes healthy eating. Unfortunately, those fruits and vegetables were not included in the Farm Bill originally so they’ve just become more expensive while meats and starches have become cheaper and cheaper. It’s also part of why we have high fructose corn syrup in everything; with corn cheaper to grow than many other crops, the government had to find a way to use MORE.
The real crux of the problem here is that those subsidies are married to SNAP within this bill. This is part of why NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg’s suggestion to limit SNAP usage from including HFCS-laden sodas was denied. That and oddly, those particular lobbyists actually have more money than he does!
Since we know more now, wouldn’t it make sense to take this upcoming opportunity to transform how we address our food supply? Let’s also consider David Ludwig’s point – another panelist and Harvard Medical School pediatrics professor – that if we are currently funding HFCS, which is a major contributing factor to greater obesity rates and declining health, we then have to pay for it again in health care costs. Are those the places where we really need to spend our money in this down economy?
Read the article, make your own decision. Then let your senators and congressmen know if you support Farm Bill reform. Don’t let them think that industry lobbyists are the only voice in town!