With poor Americans at risk as the growing worldwide food crisis meets the distinctly American economic downturn, Congress is boosting its emphasis on nutrition at the expense of certain sacrosanct crop subsidies in the new farm bill.
Even ethanol, the heavily subsidized corn-based fuel alternative blamed, in part, for the run-up in food prices worldwide, would lose about $1 billion in taxpayer support, according to the Washington Post. Instead, Congress is throwing more money at cellulosic ethanol, which is made from waste materials or non-food crops. (File under, Duh.)
For years (more accurately decades) critics have said the farm bill gives away too much to rich farmers, at the expense not only of small family farmers in the U.S. and around the world, but also of American health. Subsidies for corn have, for instance, helped to put high-fructose corn syrup in seemingly every processed food on grocery store shelves, adding sugar and calories that Americans facing the obesity epidemic don't need.
Don't expect a farm bill that makes sense by any budget but one Congress could construct, however. Millionaire farmers will still be eligible for huge tax breaks and hand-outs. We'll still pay taxes to help race horse owners, and a range of other interests that have almost nothing to do with food or farming, or the larger interests of the public.
But there's a new measure of reality in the farm bill Congress negotiated over the weekend. It just took the worst food crisis in at least a generation to get here.
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