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What would happen to American Food if Government Subsidies were removed?

bbqboy Apr 21, 2010 12:17 PM

Would our diet change? Less milk and wheat?
More gardens? Local food?
Would we be healthier?
Just wondering.

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  1. pikawicca RE: bbqboy Apr 21, 2010 12:28 PM

    The price of meat would go through the roof, for one thing. HFCS would probably disappear.

    7 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca
      bbqboy RE: pikawicca Apr 21, 2010 03:58 PM

      I was thinking of crops more than meat, but why so?

      1. re: bbqboy
        Indirect Heat RE: bbqboy Apr 21, 2010 04:34 PM

        Much of cattle feed these days is corn. Chicken feed, too, I think. Corn is extremely highly subsidized.

        1. re: bbqboy
          Veggo RE: bbqboy Apr 21, 2010 04:41 PM

          In the peak year of the ethanol frenzy, $7billion was wasted diverting corn to our gas tanks instead of feeding it to our traditional edible animals. Even our Congress figured out the folly of it in only a few years, to their credit.(?)
          Corn was meant to be eaten, not driven. It's not nice to fool mother nature.

          1. re: Veggo
            pdxgastro RE: Veggo Apr 21, 2010 10:39 PM

            Yes and it caused serious corn shortages in Mexico. That's like a rice shortage in Asia, for pete's sake!

            1. re: Veggo
              thew RE: Veggo Apr 24, 2010 09:48 AM

              corn was "meant" to make more corn.

              eating it or driving are both using nature

              1. re: thew
                s
                soupkitten RE: thew Apr 24, 2010 10:41 AM

                in ethanol's case, corn is both eaten *and* driven. the ethanol plants extract the alcohol (sugar) from the corn, albeit in a ridiculously energy-and-water-inefficient manner. they produce ethanol and wastewater from it. what happens to the millions of tons of corn slurry after the alcohol is extracted, you ask? why, it's shipped across the country, of course--to the cafos in california and utah, where poor animals flank-deep in filth are fed this waste sludge in order to produce cheap milk and meat. a whole 'nother layer of agribusiness enviro-crappiness, and NOBODY talks about it.

            2. re: bbqboy
              visciole RE: bbqboy Apr 22, 2010 06:59 AM

              Also a lot of meat-producers get subsidized access to government land and water, and in many cases they do not have to pay to get rid of the wastes. So yeah, the price of meat would be way higher.

              Chicken often costs about the same as onions and potatoes. This just doesn't make sense.

          2. m
            mpjmph RE: bbqboy Apr 21, 2010 01:03 PM

            The costs of a lot of foods would increase. Packaged/processed foods that use a lot of corn and soy derivatives would cost as much as "whole" versions of similar products. I also hope that the end of subsidies would encourage producers to diversify so they aren't dependent on the boom/bust of a single crop.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mpjmph
              l
              LauraGrace RE: mpjmph Apr 23, 2010 06:04 PM

              THIS.

              And maybe a home gardening and backyard chicken revolution? Knock wood.

            2. bushwickgirl RE: bbqboy Apr 21, 2010 01:10 PM

              http://www.pcrm.org/magazine/gm07autu...

              Yes, our diets would change, and after a prolonged period of skyrocketing food prices and general chaos, the dust would settle and we would be better for it. The real need is to change the focus of the subsidies:

              http://www.michaelpollan.com/article....

              1. Veggo RE: bbqboy Apr 21, 2010 02:16 PM

                US agricultural subsidies that appear at first blush to be helpful to Americans come with subtle but pernicious damaging effects. Most of the world condemns these subsidies as unfair trade practices, and the WTO (World Trade Organization) has approved numerous retaliatory tariffs on US products in efforts to level the playing field for international trade that we pretend to advocate. Quick example: Brazil, the worlds largest exporter of beef, orange juice, and coffee, is imposing $600M of tariffs on over 100 American products, because of an 8 year dispute over US subsidies to its cotton farmers. Yes, cotton farmers. Subsidies, in addition to increasing the national debt, can increase the cost of other items on your plate, and such protectionist policies are guaranteed to cause American jobs to be lost.
                No free lunches, folks, don't kid yourself. Just an inexorable shift of more of the world's wealth to those who already have most of it and who make political contributions.

                22 Replies
                1. re: Veggo
                  m
                  Masonville RE: Veggo Apr 21, 2010 06:14 PM

                  Hallelujah, amen. Thank you (and also to bushwickgirl).

                  1. re: Veggo
                    m
                    mpjmph RE: Veggo Apr 21, 2010 06:38 PM

                    I especially appreciate the part about shifting wealth to those who already have it. I often talk to people who support farm subsidies because they still have a very idyllic image of the American farm. The truth is that farm subsidies as they stand now hurt farmers more than they help - farmers growing commodities barely break even and often lose money on their actual harvest so their only income is from subsidies. Farmers growing crops without subsidies are forced to compete with artificially cheap products.

                    I don't think we can just pull the rug out and eliminate subsidies in one fell swoop. We have a lost generation of farmers who don't necessarily know how to grow, harvest, and sell without subsidies.

                    1. re: Veggo
                      Caroline1 RE: Veggo Apr 22, 2010 03:55 AM

                      There is another side to U.S. farm/agriculture subsidies as well. Obesity. Yes! AMERICAN obesity. Think about it. You can buy a hamburger for a dollar (well, usually ninety nine cents) at just about any fast food chain in the U.S. Now think of a family with two or more children and two working parents who do not make 100k a year with their combined incomes. Mom has worked all day, Dad has worked all day, the kids are hungry NOW, and you CANNOT buy the ingredients to make a nutritious family meal at the supermarket for the price of one ninety nine cent hamburger each. At today's prices, chances are you can't buy enough brocolli for everyone to have a single serving each for the price of those extremely subsidized and very unhealthy ninety nine cent hamburgers. Subsidies are killing us in more than one way. Many ways. And taking the rest of the world down with us. Can we back track safely from where we are? No. There will be heavy consequences, but they are needed if we are going to pass good health onto future generations.

                      1. re: Caroline1
                        JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: Caroline1 Apr 22, 2010 04:24 AM

                        Man cannot live on hamburgers alone... people are going to get fries and a drink with that. If a family of four eats entirely off the value menu, that means they are usually going to spend $12 on a McDinner. Instead, they can go to the market and get a chicken to roast for under $5, a couple of heads of broccoli for about $3, some pasta (or a simple rice pilaf) for $1, and still have $3 left to spend... swing by Trader Joe's and get a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck and they've beaten McDonald's by a dollar and are having WINE to drink instead of soda. Now admittedly this isn't free-range organic chicken (and those grocery chickens are cheap thanks to corn subsidies), but it's still a meal I'd be proud to serve to company any time. And you know what? It's EASY. Thanks to the proliferation of grocery store rotisserie chickens, people are convinced that cooking a bird is some kind of strange magic to only be attempted by professionals. Pshaw, I say. Dry off a bird with paper towels, rub it down with salt and pepper (and whatever seasonings tickle your fancy), stick it in a 350° oven for an hour, and BOOM dinner is on the table. Really. That's all there is to it. Steam some vegetables (or roast them while the chicken cooks) and you have yourself a complete meal.

                        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
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                          FrankD RE: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Apr 24, 2010 09:19 PM

                          To be fair to Caroline, she noted that Mom and Dad are both worn out from work, so perhaps taking an hour to roast the chicken and the effort to make the meal is asking a bit much five days a week.

                          But, as you noted, roasted chickens are available in many groceries for about $6, a bag of salad is $1, commercial salad dressing is $1.49 (this assumes they're too tired to shake some oil and vinegar with a few herbs together), and a big bag of frozen mixed veg is generally only $3. So, again, for about the same money they would spend at a fast food joint, they get a better meal nutritionally, with very little extra effort (throwing some veg in a bowl to microwave doesn't sound like much work to me!), and probably some leftovers (at least the dressing and the veg should be good for a couple of meals). So, they'd even have some money to splurge and buy some donuts or cookies for dessert!

                        2. re: Caroline1
                          Veggo RE: Caroline1 Apr 22, 2010 04:25 AM

                          "Can we back track safely from where we are?" Sure. Pick a date certain, say 5 years, when absurd subsidies will sunset, and allow growers time to make rational market adjustments with a minimum of disruption. The exception will be tobacco subsidies, because the $206 billion, 25 year Master Settlement Agreement between participating states and major tobacco producers provides unprecedented legal protection and a virtual guarantee of ongoing subsidies to that crop / industry. States are hopelessly addicted to tobacco money.

                          1. re: Veggo
                            Caroline1 RE: Veggo Apr 22, 2010 08:50 AM

                            http://www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc/photo_...

                            The above is a link to the film "Food, INC" that was part of PBS/s POV broadcast last night. It is available on-line for viewing free until next Thursday, 29 April 2010. I highly recommend everyone take the time to view it. It is an eye opener.

                            1. re: Caroline1
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                              Rasam RE: Caroline1 Apr 24, 2010 08:02 AM

                              I saw this last night. It was mind blowing. It supports what people are saying in this thread about corn subsidies, unhealthy ingredients, and the terrible effects of big agribusiness on health, workers, and environment. And how the people at the tops of the regulatory bodies have backgrounds and deep ties to the very industries they are supposed to regulate.

                              Please do see it, if you haven't already done so.

                              If I didn't already eat vegetarian, and as organic, locavore, and seasonal as I could, I would after seeing this.

                              1. re: Rasam
                                Caroline1 RE: Rasam Apr 24, 2010 09:16 AM

                                Well, I didn't come away thinking vegetarian is all that "safe" either. Have you thought much about the segments on soybean crops in the U.S. and Monsanto? For those who haven't had the time or inclination to watch the film, there was a time when soybean farmers (well, all farmers, not just soybean farmers) cleaned and stored a portion of their crop as seed for the next year. Then Monsanto developed the herbicide "Round Up," and along with it, they developed a genetically modified soybean seed they call "Round Up Ready Soybean Seeds." AND...! They applied for and were granted a patent on the seeds. End result, farmers who grow Monsanto's genetically modified seeds can "cropdust" their fields cheaply and effectively. BUT... they CANNOT clean and save seeds for the following year because that would be copyright infringement. They MUST buy new seeds from Monsanto EVERY planting season!

                                All of this is compounded by the fact that U.S. law does NOT require that genetically modified foods be identified as such on labels for consumers. In 1996, only 2% of the soybeans in the U.S. came from Monsanto seeds. Twelve years later (2006) a whopping 90% of all soybean seeds grown in the U.S. were Monsanto, and guess how much natural cross pollenation had to do with that?

                                Before anyone starts thinking this is an inappropriate place for such a detailed discussion, PLEASE stop and ask yourself how much of the food you eat every day of your life in the U.S. contains soybeans? Edamame and tofu aren't even the tip of the iceberg!

                                We desperately need some changes in our food supply, laws governing it, and whether it is ethical to allow patents on life forms to be held by anyone/thing. Soybeans may not attend kindergarten, but they ARE a life form. And Monsanto is now a stand alone soybean monopoly.

                                Personally, I would LOVE to see all of the independent soybean growers (or as many as are left) ban together, find themselves a great team of pro bono lawyers, and sue the pants off Monsanto for "allowing" their gmo soybeans to contaminate their crops! Wow. What if they won...! If only I were fifty years younger and had gone to law school. '-)

                                1. re: Caroline1
                                  alanbarnes RE: Caroline1 Apr 24, 2010 09:31 AM

                                  >>"guess how much natural cross pollenation had to do with that"<<

                                  Um, none.

                                  The whole "natural cross-pollination" thing is an urban myth. It was cooked up as a defense by a Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto for infringing its patents. The media seized on this David-versus-Goliath story and portrayed the farmer as an innocent victim of corporate greed.

                                  Problem is, the farmer was lying. He'd procured Monsanto seed from a third party and was re-planting it, which is a violation of the patent. He had no serious evidence to back up his claims, and the court (which not sympathetic to Monsanto) found that his story was an obvious fabrication.

                                  Did the media jump in and inform the public that they'd told a story that was based on falsehoods? Not a chance. And so that story keeps getting repeated as though it were true despite the fact that it's demonstrably false.

                                  The reason that Roundup-ready soy is so prevalent is because it's more profitable to buy Monsanto seed and use cheap herbicides than to save your own seed and use other weed control methods. Whether that's a good thing is a legitimate topic for debate. But that debate should be based on facts, not myths.

                                  1. re: alanbarnes
                                    Caroline1 RE: alanbarnes Apr 24, 2010 11:39 AM

                                    Whoa, whoa, whoa, whao there, Lone Ranger! WHERE did I say anything about a specific lawsuit? What I did and am saying again here and now is that you cannot grow adjacent fields of soybeans and prevent cross pollenation from occuring. Well, I guess you could raise either the natural or the genetically modified soybeans in a hot house. How many acres can you put under a hothouse roof? But I did make a wrong statement as to how soybeans are pollenated. They are NOT primarily fertilized by pollen spread by the wind, but by pollen spread by bees.

                                    I say again that anyone who farms soybeans in a region not geographically isolated from other farmers growing RRSoybeans CANNOT clean and save his own seeds for planting the following year BECAUSE bees are so damned stupid they don't know they are breaking the law if they pollenate a non-RoundUpReady soybean with a RRsoybean. As things stand now, should a farmer clean and save his seed and they have been cross pollenated with RRseed, then he MUST be able to prove in court that he did not intentionally try to cheat Monsanto. And Monsanto DOES file such lawsuits. Do you have any idea what the legal fees to the individual farmers are on such cases? Do you have any idea of the incredibly expensive delaying tactics Monstanto's aerie of legal eagles can impose on that poor farmer before the case comes to trial? THAT is the bottom line. Independent farmers are being driven out of business by this fact of nature and very poorly thought out patent laws.

                                    Anyway, I personally do not like eating genetically modifed food, but when there's no law requiring clear labeling, what can I do? I've naturally got two very brown thumbs and plants commit suicide when I walk by, so growing my own food means certain starvation. '-).

                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                      alanbarnes RE: Caroline1 Apr 24, 2010 02:32 PM

                                      Sorry, C1, but you're wrong.

                                      The bees don't break the law when they pollinate a traditional plant with a GM plant. The farmer doesn't break the law when he cleans and saves seeds from that cross-pollinated plant. And he sure as hell doesn't have to "be able to prove in court that he did not intentionally try to cheat Monsanto. "

                                      If Monsanto was routinely suing farmers who grow casually cross-pollinated crops, the outcry would be unbelievable. In fact, Monsanto files a small number of suits against farmers who intentionally commit patent infringement.

                                      In each of those suits, Monsanto bears the burden of proof. Thing about it is, that burden is usually very easy to meet, since in most of the cases the poor helpless farmers you feel so badly for have flagrantly stolen Monsanto's technology. In fact, the intentional conduct is sometimes so egregious that the judge refers the farmer to law enforcement for prosecution.

                                      The case that generated all the hoopla involved a farmer named Perry Schmeiser. He denied that he intentionally planted Roundup-ready canola [I mistakenly referred to him as a soybean farmer previously], instead claiming that it must have gotten into his fields by cross-pollination or spills from passing trucks. The judge found that "none of the suggested sources could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality." But that wasn't the basis for Schmeiser's liability.

                                      The basis for liability was the undisputed fact that Schmeiser deliberately killed off all the conventional canola plants in the field by spraying them with Roundup, then cleaned and kept the Roundup-ready seeds for planting the next year. In other words, he eliminated everything **except** the patented product. The judge specifically noted that ”infringement arises not simply from occasional or limited contamination of his Roundup susceptible canola by plants that are Roundup resistant. He planted his crop for 1998 with seed that he knew or ought to have known was Roundup tolerant."

                                      As for the cost of defending litigation, it's a cost of business. And if Mr. Schmeiser had played by the rules instead of trying to get improved seed for free, he would have been entitled to recover his attorney fees from Monsanto. But he didn't; he stole the technology and got caught.

                                      I'm no fan of Monsanto, and I have serious qualms about whether monoculture in general, or genetically modified food in particular, are a good thing. But if we're going to take on agribusiness, isn't it better to pick battles where we have a chance of winning?

                                      The claim that Monsanto is oppressing poor independent farmers with frivolous patent lawsuits is disinformation, plain and simple. And people who repeat that claim in the face of the facts tend to lose credibility. Maybe some modern progressives want to sign on with Goebbels' "Big Lie" approach to propaganda, but you can count me out.

                                  2. re: Caroline1
                                    r
                                    Rasam RE: Caroline1 Apr 24, 2010 02:21 PM

                                    Yes Caroline1: I agree with what you say. Vegetarian is not the magic bullet solution here. Your remarks on soybeans, Monsanto, independent food growers, food supplies and subsidies etc. are spot on. Though the bulk of soybeans and corn are fed to cattle, not to the edamame and tofu eating humans.

                                    It is just that after seeing the sections on the factory farmed chickens, the appalling hog waste lagoons, and the absolutely unspeakable unimaginable horror of the huge CAFOs, where the animals are standing ankle deep in their own manure, the "downers" with broken legs are shoved by forklifts, the workers are treated almost as badly as the animals, etc. I cannot get those images out of my mind, and cannot imagine thinking of those products as food.

                                    Polyface farm looked idyllic in contrast. People who still choose to eat meat would ideally patronize such operations.

                                    I would love to hear from the group here concrete suggestions and actions we as consumers can take to put pressure on these abhorrent practices. I know I am right now going to find room in my pretty skimpy food budget for organic dairy and eggs from a local farm which is known for good practices. (Logically, I should go vegan, but am only halfway there. One day I hope..)

                                    Any other suggestions?

                                    1. re: Rasam
                                      Caroline1 RE: Rasam Apr 24, 2010 06:25 PM

                                      For me, the "food battle" is now a thirty year long war. I was given three units of whole blood during a surgery. I have come to call it (not entirely jokingly) "Sangre de Wino." Prior to those transfusions, I was allergic to penecillin and California bottled white wine because most CA vinyards used a specific type of plastic tubing to put the wine in the bottles. I am allergic to that specific plastic. After the transfusions, I was allergice to all foods except white rice. That was thirty years ago, and my great good fortune in all of that mess was falling into the hands of a truly great allergist who spent a lot of time teaching me about allergies, my immune system, and how to manage things.

                                      Today, thirty years later, I can eat most things, but the things I cannot handle is "garden variety" eggs, milk, meat, and poulty. While there IS an FDA ban on feeding animals growth hormone or antibiotics for a specific time period before slaughter, the FDA does not have enough inspectors to make sure that is abided by. Consequently, I have many many many times bought a lovely looking roast at my supermarket, cooked it, and one small test serving kicks my systemic allergies through the roof, and I end up having to throw away or give away the food.

                                      End result is that I have to have organic milk and eggs if I don't want to play Russian roulette. Consequently, I DO buy organic milk and produce at WalMart. Have for a long time. Why? To encourage Walmart to "go green!" But I never never EVER buy meat from Walmart. But if they go organic AND grass fed on beef, I would buy from them.

                                      I no longer eat nearly the amount of beef I did as a kid. Simply cannot afford it. But I *DO* eat the same kind of beef I did as a kid. Organic grass fed dry aged beef. I get it on the web. Expensive, but worth it. Did you know that grass fed beef has the same health benefits as salmon? GOOD cholesterol! Organic bufallo is even better, if hard to find.

                                      Years ago, possibly way back in the 60s when "scientists" first began pushing the health benefits of margarine over butter, with not a clue about trans fats, there was a big U.S. headscratching over why the population of a specific group of islands off the coast of Britain (Orkneys? Shetlands? I no longer recall) had a population that ate far more beef and butter than Americans did, yet there was NO cholesterol problem or any other dietary dangers the American beef diet carried. The consensus at the time was that it was "probably" in the genes of that population group. They were right about that, but wrong about which population group. It is in the genes of ALL cattle to produce health promoting meat when they are allowed to graze on grasses as they have for millenia. Feed steers corn in a feed lot for even a short time before slaughter and all of those benefits go out the window!

                                      Oh, and just for the record, all of those ecoli bacteria that cows spread around the slaughter houses and feed lots is much higher than normal for cows, and a somewhat different type of e-coli. Stop feeding cows corn, and put them on a grass diet for just five days prior to slaugher and they will shed 80% of the e-coli in their system. But they will also loose a bit of weight, so that would not maximize agribusiness' bottom line so it is simply unthinkable in the industry.

                                      The battle for the least harmful diet is up to each of us as individuals. In the U.S. (but please, God, NOT in the rest of the world!) the "public good" is pretty much a thing of the past. There are just so very many things stacked against us. We have no way of knowing how many of the plants we eat are genetically engineered, or how much of the meat we eat is from cloned animals. If none at the moment, what about the future? The law does not require disclosure! The laws and practices that govern the food industry have been pretty much filed down and made ineffectual. You cannot go with wreckless mass production of food (and I say wreckless because the very forces that drive mass production to meet the needs of our overpopulation do not allow for much prudence when it comes to safety standards) and not end up paying the consequences all along the way. To my way of t hinking, the choices seem to be to legislatively and forcefully slow down agribusiness so that they practice greater food safety standards. But what happens then? Food production is slowed and we have a lot of hunger, possibly even starvation, as a result. Let it go on as is and we have frequent and constant outbreaks of food born illness and death, such as we have seen over the last decade and more, as a result of ecoli, salmonella, and even occasional botulism. The U.S. is, in my opinion, quite literally damned if we do and damned if we don't.

                                      So on a personal level, I DO shop at my local farmers markets when appropriate, and I DO shop at Walmart for organics because that's a great help to my food budget and I want to do all I can to encourage the "big guys" to go green. And I do buy my grass fed organic dry aged beef on the internet, and don't eat beef nearly as often as I did in my younger years. I buy grass fed butter on the web because it is as healthy as olive oil, but it's about eight bucks a pound with shipping. So I'm using about as much olive oil in my diet as I did when I lived in Greece. (I swear, Greeks drizzle olive oil on Jell-O! <g> Only a slight hyperbole.) I buy as much organic produce as I can find and/or afford. And I worry a whoooooole lot about the world my 7 year old grandson is inheriting.

                                      Oh... And while I'm sharing worries, I also worry a lot about Icelandic volcanoes BECAUSE... If they keep erupting like this, they can have a very negative impact on food production on a global level! When will those Iclanders figure out all they have to do to get things under control is toss a few virgins in the damned things? But I've been advised in another forum that there are no virgins in Iceland. Such a problem!

                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                        coll RE: Caroline1 Apr 28, 2010 05:09 AM

                                        Just wanted to thank you for posting this link to Food Inc. I'm in the food business and thought I knew everything about mass production of meat and produce, but this gave me a lot of "food for thought". So many of our friends see things like this and instantly become vegan or whatever: but they picked all the right people to speak to to get me thinking about alternatives, with no hysterics or over reaction. I won't become vegetarian but I might just start buying a lot more locally from now on. Thanks again for making me think a little......now I see what all the hubbub is about.

                                        1. re: coll
                                          Caroline1 RE: coll Apr 28, 2010 09:23 AM

                                          This is really great! You've made my day, coll. You are a light in the darkness. Thank you!

                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                            coll RE: Caroline1 Apr 28, 2010 02:07 PM

                                            And I've already been discussing my thoughts with others, and finding reinforcement, so it will be multiplied many time over, thanks again.

                                        2. re: Caroline1
                                          e
                                          EAH RE: Caroline1 May 14, 2010 12:15 AM

                                          Ouch! As an Icelander (Islander) I resemble that remark.
                                          ;-)

                                          1. re: EAH
                                            Caroline1 RE: EAH May 14, 2010 02:02 AM

                                            ermmmmm.... Volcano proof? '-)

                                      2. re: Caroline1
                                        b
                                        Bottomless_Pit RE: Caroline1 May 5, 2010 11:32 AM

                                        "All of this is compounded by the fact that U.S. law does NOT require that genetically modified foods be identified as such on labels for consumers."

                                        I didn't know that U.S. had that lack of standards. I mean if almost everyone is against genetically modified crops, shouldn't at the least be a label? I thought U.S. has really high standards compared to Mexico, yet sometimes I'm not sure if the U.S. has enough standards.

                                2. re: Caroline1
                                  bbqboy RE: Caroline1 Apr 22, 2010 06:26 AM

                                  Indeed, this conversation started on another board where we were discussing the
                                  Mens Health annual survey of fat cites,
                                  http://www.menshealth.com/fattestciti...

                                  1. re: Caroline1
                                    MandalayVA RE: Caroline1 Apr 22, 2010 06:38 AM

                                    It kills me how we encourage cheap food over good healthy food. This is our fuel, what keeps us alive, what can make us healthy. Shouldn't we be putting in the best rather than the cheapest? It's not so much the prices but the fact that cooking is a skill that at best is on life support in this country these days. And I don't mean elaborate dishes, I mean roasting a chicken and steaming some veggies, or making a stew in a slow cooker. But no, it's far easier for us to be sold the convenience crap and factory-farmed abused corpses called meat and have "value" drilled into our heads than to actually put any effort into making meals for ourselves and our families. Here's a great thread about eating well while being poor--the OP is on disability and food stamps and does NOT resort to fast food or convenience foods:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6902...

                                3. Karl S RE: bbqboy Apr 22, 2010 07:12 AM

                                  You'd needn't think too long about this, because of the structure of the US Senate and the Guarantee Clause of the US Constitution means that there will always be enough votes to filibuster any significant re-ordering of farm subsidies.

                                  1. paulj RE: bbqboy Apr 22, 2010 09:59 AM

                                    How is the diet (and prices) different in other countries? They may have subsidies as well, but on different crops and products.

                                    Canada may support its wheat growers though a marketing board, but does it do anything for corn growers? It doesn't protect it's sugar cane growers with tariffs. Does that mean their diet is better due to using beet and cane sugar instead of HFCS? Much of Europe protects its beet sugar producers from imported HFCS.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: paulj
                                      visciole RE: paulj Apr 22, 2010 11:00 AM

                                      I don't know anything about subsidies in other countries; but I do know that the price of food in most of Europe is much higher than it is here. Especially meat.

                                      1. re: paulj
                                        Veggo RE: paulj Apr 22, 2010 11:10 AM

                                        In Mexico, nearly half of the national daily caloric intake is from corn tortillas, which have been subsidized for decades. The poor have had acess to this affordable food, and the subsidies have enabled tortilla production to stay local and become widespread village businesses everywhere. The source of the subsidy has historically been from Pemex, the national oil company. So a national resource, oil, has fed the poor. This has been a good thing. But this good thing is fading away, for 3 reasons. 1) Pemex is failing. Mexican oil reserves are rapidly depleting, Pemex doesn't maintain production infrastructure, and is rife with corruption. 2) The large nationals want to phase out corn subsidies to be able to knock out the locally owned cottage tortilla businesses - think WalMart and the hardware store that used to be in your town. 3) The emerging Mexican middle class is tired of eating tortillas every day.
                                        If you suspect that reason #3 is a convenient excuse to explain #'s 1 & 2, you would be exactly right.

                                        1. re: Veggo
                                          paulj RE: Veggo Apr 22, 2010 11:31 AM

                                          Egypt subsidizes wheat for its poor. There were some news items about that a couple of years ago when grain prices spiked.

                                          1. re: paulj
                                            Veggo RE: paulj Apr 22, 2010 11:51 AM

                                            Subsidizing food for the poor and misbegotten is noble. Invidious agendas masquerading as such are not.

                                          2. re: Veggo
                                            Caroline1 RE: Veggo Apr 22, 2010 06:54 PM

                                            Well, the one (and possibly most devestating) impact on corn (and tortilla) prices in Mexico was NAFTA. After NAFTA was ratified, Mexico was immediately flooded with U.S. subsidized corn, the Mexican corn farmers were put out of business because they simply could not compete, even with Pemex subsidies, and as a result many many many of Mexico's former corn farmers are now in the U.S. on Green Cards that have to be renewed every six months, working in beef, pork, and chicken processing plants, or in the lowest levels of agribusiness. Strange world we live in.

                                          3. re: paulj
                                            f
                                            FrankD RE: paulj Apr 24, 2010 09:47 PM

                                            Actually, there are many Canadian wheat farmers who are trying to get the wheat board tossed out; it regularly pays them LESS than they could get selling their wheat on the open market.

                                            The most egregious marketing boards (there are about 80!) in Canada are for milk and dairy, eggs, and poutry. With the Canadian and US dollars jostling around par right now, comparisons are easy; chicken leg quarters at Wegmans in Buffalo are $0.49/lb, while they are $0.79/lb in Canada. Eggs are on special here in Toronto at some stores for $1.99/doz; at Wegmans, they're $1.29. Wegman's has a US gallon of 1% milk for $1.79; in most Toronto stores, 4 litres (virtually the same volume) sets us back about $4. And while one Toronto store is offering butter at $2.99/lb (and having shelves picked clean), Wegman's everyday price is $1.69 for their house brand.

                                            This, of course, has allowed a succession of Canadian governments of all political stripes to deny that they are "subsidizing" farmers, since there is no "direct" transfer of funds from the government to the farmers. There's just a constant, daily drain on Canadian wallets and purses instead.

                                            Every economist (except those who are in politicians in economists' clothing, which is a frightening fashion thought in its own right) knows that Canada's marketing boards distort prices, cost consumers a whack, and protect inefficient farmers (who can retire rich by simply selling their quota for hundreds of thousands of dollars). But, as in other parts of the world, no politician has enough iron in his/her diet to stand up to them.

                                          4. paulj RE: bbqboy Apr 22, 2010 11:46 AM

                                            How about subsidies in the form of irrigation water? That might affect fruits and vegetables more than grains like corn and wheat.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: paulj
                                              alanbarnes RE: paulj Apr 22, 2010 12:53 PM

                                              Or not. Most irrigation in the US is used to grow grain and animal feed. Corn is planted on about a quarter of all irrigated acreage in the country (give or take a percent). Wheat, rice, and soy production account for another quarter, as do hay and pastureland. Of the remaining quarter, 11% percent is used to grow cotton. Which leaves 9% for fruits and 5% for vegetables.

                                              http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/ircroppi...

                                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                                paulj RE: alanbarnes Apr 22, 2010 01:23 PM

                                                I was thinking of the California and Washington types of irrigation based on large BLM and other government projects (dams, reservoirs). In that graphic the large corn acreages are in Nebraska and Kansas. I wonder if most of that land is irrigated with water pumped from underground, using electricity or locally based motors.

                                                Another page from the source, shows the percentage of each crop that is grown with irrigation. All rice is grown that way. Most orchards and potatoes use irrigation. Corn and wheat are low (relative) users.

                                                Acreage might not be the best measure. Tonnage of food, or dollar value might give different rankings. Is it meaningful to compare an acre of hay to an acre of almonds or dates?

                                                http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/ircropba...

                                                1. re: paulj
                                                  alanbarnes RE: paulj Apr 22, 2010 01:58 PM

                                                  I think the best measure would be the total volume of water used to irrigate each crop. That would take into account not just the number of acres irrigated, but the amount of water put on each acre.

                                                  The WWF claims that the "thirstiest" crops - measured by water required to generate a kilogram of product - are rice, sugar, cotton, and wheat. http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/...

                                              2. re: paulj
                                                s
                                                soupkitten RE: paulj Apr 22, 2010 01:21 PM

                                                i think that the cafos would certainly have to shut down if we brought water into it as well as grain subsidies. at 80 gal h2o/cow/day. . .that would get very spendy for the western states where the biggest cafos are. the cows would just have to be sent back where they came from, to all the pasture in the midwest. it would certainly mean no more water restrictions for l.a, and probably help ease all the water problems with the rest of the state's ag we've been hearing about. no more of those damn "happy cows come from california" ads. sounds like heaven.

                                                1. re: paulj
                                                  Veggo RE: paulj Apr 22, 2010 01:51 PM

                                                  That peaches, grapes, and cherries grow among cactus and sage in Grand Junction is a beautiful if unnatural anomaly, a result of Colorado's last chance to siphon water from the Colorado River before it leaves the state as part of a water sharing agreement haphazardly struck generations ago. The fertile agricultural region in the southern CA desert is an equal unnatural beneficiary. The loser thus far is the marine life in the Sea of Cortez, as its salinity increases because no fresh water is deposited to it and the ecosystem there is warping. The Colorado River is considered "fully utilized" if not a single drop from it reaches the sea.
                                                  The complete utilization of the Jordan River straddling Israel and the former source of replenishment to the languishing Dead Sea represents a conflict soon to occur between nations. The future of the Colorado River promises to be a divisive issue here. The value of water becomes infinite, when you haven't got any.
                                                  EDIT: Wow...Father Kitchen and I are discussing the identical topic simultaneously, about water and the Colorado River - FK on the Sam thread. I think Sam is nearby...

                                                  1. re: Veggo
                                                    Caroline1 RE: Veggo Apr 22, 2010 08:03 PM

                                                    Veggo, to your edit; yup. I noticed that.

                                                    As for water, and specifically America's formerly great rivers and the current state of our "utilization" of them, I question whether mankind is, collectively, able to comprehend the proper "utilization" of water (or anything else) in a way that has minimal to no negative impact.

                                                    On the Colorado River, for instance (I think it was the Colorado, but I have not kept up because I tend not to follow things too closely that fill me with an overwhelming sense of hopelessnes), around thirty years ago there was a huge problem with crops irrigated with river water dying. Ultimately, it was realized that the root of the problem was too much selenium in the water and it was killing the crops. That was the result of damming (and damning, to pursue the pun) the river upstream, chemicals leaching along the way, and ending up (in a broad sense) turning the river water into a pesticide. I don't know what the current situation is, but I can only hope it has been rectified to some degree. Or at least, I have to assume so since I can still buy tomatoes.

                                                    To get back to Sam for a minute, the thing I loved most about our beloved Dr. Fujisaka was that he was, to my way of thinking, such an incurable optimist. Either that or in a serious state of denial. He saw hope for this world we live in, and unrelentingly went about trying to make things better. We talked about our philosophical differences in this area more than once. He was the optimist, I was the pesimist. God, I hope he was right!

                                                    I've been interested in ecology since the sixties, and have practiced "environmental precautions" to the best of my ability since doing a study course with Dr. Paul Ehrlich in the early seventies. I often compare the condition of the world today to me being stuck in a lifeboat with a bunch of people who are whittling holes in the bottom of the boat for their own gain or amusement, not believing they are going to scuttle our boat/earth.

                                                    On water issues, the best news I have heard since the end of WWII is that there is now a program of blowing up dams on rivers that have traditionally fed into the Pacific Coast of the U.S., but have been blocked for decades As of thirty years ago, I do believe there was ONE (as in the number "1") river that had not yet been dammed on the Canadian to Mexico U.S. coast. The result was devestating. No more sand feeding into the long shore drift, and the sandy beaches were disappearing like puddles in Death Valley on a sunny day. I have seen very upscale condominiums in Solana Beach, California, fall into the ocean because the shore was no longer protected by sand being fed into the ocean by the dammed-up rivers and the sea undercut the escarpment they sat atop of. Whoosh! Everybody into the pool! The impact on the ecology of the shoreline was devestating. So now they are blowing up some of the dams to allow sand to reach the sea and salmon to reach their spawning ground, just two of the many wonders of nature that stand to be saved by that action.

                                                    As for inland waters, it was (again) back in the 1960s that House Beautiful ran a series of articles loosely addressing the impact of man on the environment. One dealt with water. At that time, they wrote, every time someone drank a glass of city tap water, that water had been flushed through someone's toilet and recycled at least five times. Today, our drinking water has more serious problems. The amount of prescription drugs in the tap water of far too many U.S. cities is a growing danger. To this day I will not eat any shrimp or shellfish from the area of the Mississippi delta simply because I understand the impact that all of those chemicals from industry and people's collections of cleaning supplies and petroleum products under their sinks and in their garages have done to that ecology as a result of the New Orelans flooding.

                                                    I'm very encouraged that so many of us here on Chowhound are aware of these problems. Here's hoping it has an impact.

                                                  2. re: paulj
                                                    thew RE: paulj Apr 24, 2010 09:49 AM

                                                    agreed.agriculture and raising animals west of the mississippi are seriously dependent on federal welfare. er i mean subsidies.

                                                  3. c
                                                    Captainspirou RE: bbqboy Apr 23, 2010 06:11 PM

                                                    I think New Zealand would be a good example to look at.

                                                    http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/fe...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Captainspirou
                                                      bbqboy RE: Captainspirou Apr 23, 2010 06:20 PM

                                                      really interesting. thanks.

                                                    2. paulj RE: bbqboy May 6, 2010 01:26 PM

                                                      Article about European subsidies

                                                      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment...
                                                      "EU sugar and dairy companies largest recipients of farm subsidies
                                                      Larger operators dominate the payments lists, according to analysis from the campaign group farmsubsidy.org"

                                                      1. h
                                                        hhhhhh RE: bbqboy Jun 17, 2014 10:52 PM

                                                        If subsidies were taken away Americans would have to eat the right foods. Now, a pound of beef costs, say, $2.00 a pound. if there were no subsides a pound would be more like 10.00 a pound. Red meat is bad in large quantities just like corn syrup. All the stuff that a person should not eat is subsidized. To much milk causes more mucus than you should have, and John Hopkins just came out and said to much mucus causes cancer. John Hopkins says to stay away from to much mucus, red meat, and and sugars(fructose, corn, and artificial sugars as well). Everything that kills you it seems like the U.S. Government subsidizes.
                                                        I say take the subsides off and let a steak cost $65.00 like it should, then America would be healthy and not so overweight.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: hhhhhh
                                                          coll RE: hhhhhh Jun 18, 2014 03:57 AM

                                                          Here's what Johns Hopkins (not John Hopkins who perhaps is a random person sending out these false emails) really has to say
                                                          http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/kimmel...

                                                          By the way, beef DOES cost about $10/lb on sale right now.

                                                          1. re: hhhhhh
                                                            jmckee RE: hhhhhh Jun 18, 2014 07:43 AM

                                                            The "right" foods. And of course there's only one kind of "right" food.

                                                            Johns Hopkins can go pound sand.

                                                            I am SO sick of the nervous nutritional nellies who treat food as if it's medicine.

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