How Revising Government Subsidies
will Benefit the Environment, Economy,
and Populace’s Health.
Enough food is grown worldwide
to feed 10 billion people.
Still, 795 million individuals
go to bed hungry each evening.
The conundrum stems from corporate greed
and the Freedom to Farm Act
which no longer serves small farmers
or the American populace.
When one’s worldview is engulfed by the culture one lives in, it can become difficult to discern the aspects of society which do not support the entire populace. Open-minded inspection, however, oftentimes results in the seeker unearthing connections between the many parts of his or her culture and persistent global concerns. In this case, an argument can be made for the correlations between the United States’ agricultural subsidies programs and conundrums, such as environmental degradation, economic downturn, and poor health in an affluent nation. After tedious study and consideration, it can be concluded that a revision of government subsidies, which neither support small farmers or American citizens, would benefit the economy, environment, and populace’s health.
Despite the fact that the United States spends over $3.5 trillion on healthcare each year, its populace is one o Energy Inputs and the Environment“ conducted by ecologist David Pimentel of Cornell University reveals that the amount of crops grown in the United States alone could feed 800 million people.
Clearly, the agricultural subsidies program is not supporting the American populace’s best interest.
“More than half the U.S. grain and nearly 40 percent of world grain is being fed to livestock rather than being consumed directly by humans.
Although grain production is increasing in total, the per capita supply has been decreasing for more than a decade. Clearly, there is reason for concern in the future.”
To grasp how a more intelligent distribution of resources could benefit the planet, consider this:
on the same amount of land (1.5 square miles), either 375 pounds of beef can be cultivated or 37,000 pounds of nutrient-dense vegetables.
By heavily subsidizing crops that are, for the most part, fed to livestock intended for consumption, the whole of humanity is adversely affected. The environmental implications are not to be overlooked either.
Considering the United States entered into a climate change agreement with Paris in 2015, the subsidizing of crops primarily intended to be fed to livestock is environmentally irresponsible.
Countless findings support this assertion; for example, the study “Global Diets Link Environmental Sustainability and Human Health,” which was published in the journal Nature, relays that by 2050, agricultural emissions will increase by 80%.
This is important, as livestock is already responsible for producing 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, according to researcher Peter Scarborough.
Effects of climate change – largely driven by human activity, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – include increased incidences of environmental disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, rising ocean levels as ice caps melt, and problems like food shortages.
The easiest way to prevent climate change from worsening would be for the populace to wean itself off animal products.
According to Pimentel’s Cornell analysis, animal protein production requires more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein; at the same time, animal protein is only 1.4 times more nutritious for humans than the comparable amount of plant protein.
Not only is it possible to obtain all essential nutrients from plant foods, it’s better for the environment. Scarborough concluded that those who omit all animal products from their diets (including dairy, eggs, and meat) are able to save 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life each day.
By making the more ethical and environmentally-sound decision to eschew animal products, the environment would greatly benefit. In fact, scientific support for this declaration doesn’t end there.
According to ecologist Pimentel of Cornell University, livestock are directly or indirectly responsible for much of the soil erosion in the United States.
Soil loss averages 13 tons per hectare per year and may exceed 100 tons on severely overgrazed pastures. In result, 54 percent of U.S. pasture is being overgrazed. Furthermore, animal agriculture is a leading consumer of water resources in the United States and a concern because water shortages are already affecting the populace as a whole.
Pimentel observed that grass-fed beef production requires 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food and broiler chicken takes 3,500 liters of water for one kilogram of meat.
In comparison, soybean production uses 2,000 liters for one kilogram of food produced; rice needs 1,912, wheat takes 900, and potatoes need 500 liters.
The researcher elaborates:
“Water shortages already are severe in the Western and Southern United States and the situation is quickly becoming worse because of a rapidly growing U.S. population that requires more water for all of its needs, especially agriculture.”
It is arguable that by decreasing humanity’s reliance on animal-based products and foods, many factors of American society will benefit.
From a health perspective, present agricultural subsidies do not support a thriving populace.
When small and large-scale farmers grow large amounts of corn, soy, and wheat, the crops’ prices plummet. In result, packaged food companies and fast food establishments utilize the cheap staples in various ways – mainly as High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated fats, and corn-fed meats, all which contribute to various forms of illness.
According to the study, “Lifetime Medical Costs of Obesity: Prevention No Cure for Increasing Health Expenditure,” which was published in the Journal PLOS, excess sugar consumption causes obesity as well as type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, kidney disease, and cancer.
There is a notable connection between rates of obesity and the sickest people on the planet, as well.
A United Health Foundations study (Lifetime Medical Costs of Obesity – Prevention No Cure for Increasing Health Expenditure) found that nine of the ten least healthy states in the U.S. have nine of the ten worst obesity rates. Whereas obesity used to be considered a disease of affluence, it is now largely correlated with low-income households who rely on cheap, refined products and fast foods, which contain a plethora of ingredients sourced from subsidized crops.
At the time of purchasing ‘economical’ staples – low-nutrient, full of dyes and preservatives, and high in fat and sugar – individuals might believe they are stretching their dollars; however, the health complications that arise from a diet rich in animal products, refined sugars, and low-quality fillers are anything but cheap.
As was mentioned earlier, the United States spends more than $3 trillion on healthcare each year.
Not only could mass amounts of suffering and many deaths be prevented by revising the agricultural subsidies program and ensuring all citizens have abundant access to nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, and satiating plant-based foods, the economy would undoubtedly benefit as healthcare costs decline.
By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.6 billion.
In result, production of high-quality, nutrient dense food needs to increase by 70%. The only technology, at present, capable of making this requirement a reality are vertical farms.
Vertical farming experts estimate that a 30-story farm could feed 50,000 people a 2,000 calorie per day diet for an entire year.
Traditional farming presently suffers from a 50% failure rate due to unpredictable weather patterns, including droughts and flooding, plant diseases, and insect infestations, but indoor greenhouses and vertical farms use a controlled environment to cultivate crops organically. When hydroponic and aquaponic (raising fish and plants symbiotically) techniques are utilized, water waste is decreased and the amount of time required to grow crops shrinks.
A few obstacles stand in the way of this vision being realized, however, mainly the high start-up costs, energy infrastructure, and the limited amounts of crops that can be grown hydroponically.
If taxpayers’ money were utilized more intelligently, on the other hand, the problem would cease to exist in a short period of time.
At present, only one-tenth of one percent of every dollar a taxpayer puts into subsidizing and promoting foods through the Department of Agriculture goes to fruits and vegetables. One might surmise that if the populace needs to increase their intake of life-promoting plant-based foods but fails to do so because of high costs, reform can – and should – be made in this department.
In addition to taxpayers’ money needing to be utilized more intelligently, another obstacle to consider is the fact that powerful key players in the meat, dairy, and biotech industries presently head government organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For example, Jack Watson was the former chief of staff to the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, and is now a staff lawyer with Monsanto Corporation (the biotech corporation responsible for Agent Orange and glyphosate, a neurotoxin in weed-killers).
Additionally, Michael Phillips, who held a position on the National Academy of Science Board on Agriculture, is now the head of regulatory affairs for the Biotechnology Industry Organization that profits off of mono-crop cultivation (single crops, such as wheat, corn, and soy), according to Rich Murray of Rense.
These individuals are but some who are part of the ‘revolving door’ between Monsanto, the FDA, and the EPA. Overcoming policy makers’ personal agendas (which oftentimes stems from corporate greed) is its own hurdle.
Because lobbyists and policymakers will be the ones who decide whether or not a reform of agricultural subsidies programs is granted, their influence is worth noting.
Although the United States of America is a great country for numerous reasons, the nation’s economy and the health of its citizens could greatly benefit from a revision of government-funded agricultural subsidies which were introduced in the 1920’s.
The Freedom to Farm Act is now detrimental to small farmers who can’t keep up with large-scale farms, the populace’s health, and the environment as a whole.
One solution might be to reroute taxpayers’ dollars to invest in green technology and sustainable forms of growing food, such as vertical farms and hydroponic greenhouses.
However, that change has to come from Washington, D.C.
Nonetheless, an educated populace can urge for change, and such action is needed now more than ever because it is clear that the present system benefits the few rather than the many.
by Amanda Froelich, December 8, 2016, from TrueActivist Website