The Food Subsidy Racket

Last week, Childhood Obesity News talked a little about government subsidies, and today we concentrate on one particular crop. In 2010, the monumental documentary film King Corn was released, and the following information and quotations come from a review at, by the one-named writer Almira.

When Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis graduated from Yale, they moved to Iowa in pursuit of “America’s best-drop secret” and connected with a farmer who agreed to loan them one acre of land on which to plant corn. Applying for and receiving a Farm Subsidy, they still lost enough money on the project to make it clear that growing corn can only be profitable as a very large-scale enterprise.

Their corn tasted like sawdust, just like everybody else’s. Michael Pollan wrote of Iowa’s major product, “The commodity corn, nobody can eat. It must be processed before we can eat it. It’s a raw material.” But the flavor doesn’t matter, because 50% of all corn grown in America is fed to animals, who don’t have the option of sending a dish back to the chef.

Beef cattle spend their last four months eating a diet that is 90% corn, and not longer than that, because “once a cow goes past 120 days of being fed a high-corn diet, the cattle’s health begins to rapidly diminish with ulcers…” So rather than die of disease, the beef stock are given antibiotics (70% of the antibiotics used in the United States are fed to meat animals) and slaughtered for people to eat.

The subtitle of a piece by David Sirota is, “The real reason Big Macs are cheaper than more nutritious alternatives? Government subsidies.” A myth exists that healthful food is inherently more expensive, but the author cites “rigged economics and corrupt policymaking,” and denies the mistaken idea that “only Birkenstock-wearing trust-funders can afford to eat right in tough times.”

He goes on to say:

If the glib explanation seems almost too perfectly sculpted for your local right-wing radio blowhard — that’s because it dishonestly omits the most important part of the story. The part about how healthy food could easily be more affordable for everyone right now, if not for those ultimate elitists: agribusiness CEOs, their lobbyists and the politicians they own.

The bottom line is that the government uses public money to guarantee private profit. Protectors of the commodity crops — corn, wheat, soy, and rice — subsidize the careers of politicians with no conscience, who in turn vote for the subsidizing of giant factory farms. What the commodity food crops have in common is their presence in junk food.

Corn, for instance, has been propped up to the tune of $50 billion in the last decade, so that the nation may drown in high fructose corn syrup. It logically follows that the same corruption costs America more billions for the health problems caused by junk food.

And that’s only 18% of the corn that is grown. A much higher percentage is converted into fuel for machines. We pay “food” subsidies for products that are not even food.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “King Corn,”, 08/10/10
Source: “Why Americans Can’t Afford to Eat Healthy,”, 07/15/11
Photo credit: Zanastardust via VisualHunt/CC BY

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