Got Food Subsidies? Farmers Have Long Subsidized Your Food
By Brad Wilson at Oct 11, 2010
USDA predictions for this years corn crop revised downward a while back, and then revised significantly downward again on Friday. Already Bloomberg News is predicting higher meat prices, with the headline: Meat Market Corn Crunch Means Costliest Beef in Quarter Century. What they forget to tell you is that farmers lost money on corn and other important feed grains and food grains, and the corn portion of meat, during the better part of that quarter century. So, other factors aside, (such as how much agribusiness gouges you,) your food this year will pay the farmers at the bottom, those who grow the grains, at price levels above their full costs.
Additionally, all of the bad things caused by that below cost grain will be suppressed during this period of higher prices. Have you seen the food films? Are you concerned about high fructose corn syrup, soy transfats, CAFOs (animal factories), ethanol, export dumping on farmers overseas, illegal immigration of bankrupt farmers from Mexico? Did you know that the US has usually exported our major farm "program crops" at a loss over the past 30 years. That hurts our economy and the economies of Least Developed Countries world wide (LDCS are 70% rural) as we dump on them (choose to lose money, even though we're the dominant exporter). Those trends are reversed. Fruits and vegetables will compare better vs. corn and soybeans. More income will flow into farming countries.
How about farm sustainability? As CAFOs become more costly, livestock, spread out on farms, will become more competitive. Once again, grassfed meats will compare more favorably, encouraging more land to be seeded down for forages, for pasture and hay. Expect greater availability of healthier foods.
As I've stated before, when USDA-ERS studied commodity costs and returns, figuring full costs versus market prices plus subsidies (which they did for 5 years or so on corn and some other crops,) in each case the net result was below zero overall. Even with subsidies, farmers were subsidizing you overall, not the other way around, according to the evidence available from ERS.
When consumers face and accept these facts, then hopefully they'll be more inclined to address food problems, not by blaming farmers and trying to lower farm income, but by working with farmers against corporate agribusiness, by making agribusiness pay farmers high enough prices to cover full costs, plus a reasonable profit. Hopefully consumers will join in support for the National Family Farm Coaliiton's Food from Family Farms Act (nffc.net).
So consumers, as your health rises, your self esteem should rise too, not just because you'll be eating healthier, but because you're no longer free loaders, joining the load that farmers have long been carrying around.
For Further Reading:
Brad Wilson, "Corn Farmers Have Long Subsidized You, Not the Other Way Around," ZSpace, 2/23/12, http://www.zcommunications.org/corn-farmers-have-long-subsidized-you-not-the-other-way-around-by-brad-wilson.
Brad Wilson, "Duped by Chicken Little’s ‘Dairy Cliff?’ That’s Your Brain on Agribusiness," ZSpace, 12/24/12, http://www.zcommunications.org/duped-by-chicken-little-s-dairy-cliff-that-s-your-brain-on-agribusiness-by-brad-wilson.