Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
farm subsidies, there is indeed a cause for concern. The first
issue is the extent to which farm subsidies are the reason so
much land is planted in soybeans and corn, instead of plants
like arugula and squash.
Then there are the farm subsidies themselves. Why do we
have them? What do they accomplish? Are they intended to
benefit large corporations, small farmers, or consumers? These
are the controversies we confront, though the discussion con-
cerns primarily subsidies in the United States.
Are Farm Subsidies Responsible for our Enormous Corn
and Soybean Production?
More cropland is used to produce corn and soybeans than any
other crop, and they are used mostly for livestock feed and pro-
cessed foods. That is, so much corn and soybeans are grown
because consumers eat so much meat, dairy, eggs, and pro-
cessed foods. Because food activists generally want to reduce
consumption of meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods, they
believe human health would improve if these corn and soy-
bean acres were planted in something else (radishes or broc-
coli, perhaps?). Food activists especially focus on corn, though.
Do subsidies cause excess corn and soybean production,
and is that why we eat so much meat, dairy, and eggs? Is that
why corn finds its way into almost every processed food? Farm
policies are incredibly complex in the United States (and the
European Union). They don't just subsidize farmers for each
unit of a commodity they produce. Sometimes they give this
subsidy while also limiting the amount of the commodity they
can produce. At other times farmers are given a lump sum
of money regardless of what or how much they plant, which
shouldn't (directly) affect planting decisions at all. There are even
policies that restrict imports of goods like sugar, which serve to
increase prices and decrease consumption. The simple existence
of programs we call “subsidies” doesn't mean excess produc-
tion takes place. There are many other reasons why corn and
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