The Agricultural Subsidy and How It Affects You

Over the past few decades, America has seen an exponential increase in the obesity rate, and it is slowly passing smoking as the leading cause of death. An overwhelming majority of our food products, specifically “junk food,” are made with an ingredient that comes from corn which is commonly known as High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS.  The introduction of HFCS has been linked to the rise the obesity epidemic, and is directly correlated to health problems that have plagued American society.

These issues mainly originated from the introduction of agricultural subsidies, which have become a major investment for the U.S. government.

First off, it is important understand the concept of agricultural subsidy. The federal government created this program for farmers and agribusinesses to supplement their income, control the supply of agricultural commodities, and affect the cost of such commodities, thus going against the market and artificially setting prices.

In the U.S., the department of agriculture spends nearly $25 billion a year on these subsidies in order to keep crops at an artificially low price, with the majority being spent on corn. As a result of these low prices, food companies are now given an incentive to make their food products using HFCS, which some studies have shown to have negative health effects.

A product such as Coca-Cola is a prime example of how the agricultural subsidy has created a negative effect on health in America. Sugar was the soda product’s primary sweetener until the fluctuation of sugar prices in the mid 1970s and developing markets in Asia caused an increase in demand, thus drastically raising the price of sugar to 60 cents a pound by the end of 1974. As a result of this roller coaster change in sugar prices, Coca-Cola had to search for new alternatives for their sweeteners. After the introduction of agricultural subsidies, Coca-Cola was able to incorporate HFCS as their new sweetener since they could purchase it at a price 10-15 percent lower than sugarcane. The development of this new artificial sweetener with its low cost would eventually spread to other food products throughout the years, worsening the effects of consuming junk food.

After the introduction of HFCS in products like Coca-Cola, the American public observed an increase in the obesity rate in direct correlation to the increase in consumption of soda products made with HFCS. Childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980, starting much higher in earlier ages, the rate for teens quadrupled from 5 to 20.5 percent, and one in four young adults ages 17 to 24 are deemed overweight to enlist in the military.

Not only has the agricultural subsidy been a detriment to our physical well being, but it has also burnt a big hole in the wallets of many hardworking Americans. As previously stated, the government invests $25 billion each year on these subsidies. The expenditure is mainly supplemented by raising taxes for everyday American people, thus enabling the government to support something that is unhealthy, and something that harms the American economy, instead of helping it.

Repealing this subsidy will require major change in legislation in Congress to reverse the negative effects that it has created and, overall. remediate the problems that farmers and American citizens have incurred.  If the agricultural subsidy were to be eliminated, farmers would cease the overproduction of crops, and it will allow them to use their land more efficiently, thus diversifying land use to grow a variety of crops. This will increase competition in the market and increase revenue as a result.  

In addition to being economically beneficial, it could reverse the negative health effects by bringing the obesity rate down. If the government is no longer able to artificially set prices of agricultural commodities, farmers will no longer overproduce, which will bring up the price of certain crops and deter companies from using these commodities to produce their foods. So if the price of HFCS were to go up, Coca-Cola and other soda manufacturers may no longer use that as an ingredient for producing their soda, and they may resort back to using sugar as their primary sweetener.

Proponents of this agricultural policy, including the U.S. government, say that it benefits farmers and the U.S. economy. However, it is shown to have the opposite effect, as it discourages innovation and efficiency for farmers, destroys competition in the market, and has only deteriorated the overall health of the American people. It is in the best interests of those in Congress to enact major reform to abolish this bill and to suppress the power of lobbyists and special interest groups who condone this act; it only benefits them and the agribusinesses they advocate at the expense of smaller farmers who bear the brunt of this failed policy.