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Agricultural Policy And Childhood Obesity: A Food Systems And Public Health Commentar

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  • Agricultural Policy And Childhood Obesity: A Food Systems And Public Health Commentar

    Agricultural Policy And Childhood Obesity: A Food Systems And Public Health Commentary
    Wallinga, D.
    Health Affairs, 29, no. 3 (2010): 405-410

    From press release by Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy:
    Minneapolis – A decades-old “cheap food” policy has helped create a broken U.S. food system where unhealthy foods are both cheaper and more available to children than are healthy foods, writes the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s David Wallinga, M.D. in a new article in the March issue of the influential journal, Health Affairs. The article comes out after first lady Michelle Obama, along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and others, launched a national initiative to address childhood obesity last month.

    This looks like a fantastic article. I'm really interested in reading about the policy recommendations proposed by the author. Does anyone have a subscription (student, medical professional, researcher, etc.) and could possibly e-mail the full-text version of the article to me? It would be for personal use, only. Thank you in advance.
    Here is a link to the primary source and free abstract:
    Last edited by MariaNYC; 04-14-2010, 08:32 AM.
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

  • #2
    "Because they operate independently, commodity crop farmers have a long-established tendency to overproduce collectively. During the Great Depression, a production glut led to a predictable drop in prices and subsequent farm failures. Although there were fewer farmers, total farmland stayed the same as larger farms swallowed up smaller farms. What ensued were the first federal programs to manage the supply of agricultural commodities, both to stabilize prices and to sustain farm income."

    The timeline supplied in this article is wrong. It was federal programs under FDR that began the impetus for larger farmers to swallow small farmers. Mainly, larger farmers who leased their lands to share croppers were incentivized to stop leasing their land because the gov't paid them not to grow and secured loans to larger farms to buy small farms. In other words these programs engaged in helping put the small farms out of business.

    Yes, a production glut did occur during the Great Depression. As happens in economics when there are more goods in the market and less demand prices must fall. An example if everyone produces bananas and tries to sell them at market you must compete with Joe who is also selling bananas. Well if Joe is selling at $0.05 then you gotta sell at $0.04 in order to out sell him.

    So along comes the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. It pays farmers not to produce and gleans the money to pay farmers by taxing corporations who process farm products! This was deemed unconstitutional. Duh!

    Well in 1938 FDR would not be stymied by this piffle of a judgment and begets an offspring called the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938. Making permanent provisions for price controls and supports of commodities such as corn and other grains. So now we have price controls that supposedly help the market understand what we as consumers want to purchase. You see what you pay at the supermarket for your corn or butter and what the farmer gets paid to produce are not true cost or profit. It is mediated by this Bill that says no matter what farmers get paid X amount for their crop even if you don't want to pay for it, your tax dollars go to them anyway.

    For farmers to truly overproduce in a free-market system (i.e. one where the gov't doesn't decide how much of what crop by paying them to produce or not produce) the cost must be carried by them and not by their consumers. In fact, the consumer will benefit in the short-term because prices will be low; their purchasing power goes up. It frees up their income to spend on other goods or services. Well what about the poor farmers you say? Several things will happen in this system. Some farmers will reduce or modify their crop product. Maybe produce other crops that are viable on the market. Maybe lease out their land such as sharecropping practices that were very common before The Great Depression and this silliness about Agricultural relief. They might even convert the land for another use altogether or sell it. And some may give up the business altogether.

    Remember if prices are low and people have income to spend elsewhere then when farmers give up their farming practice and enter into a new profession or designate their land for another use, that freed up income (income not spent buying food at higher prices) can be invested into these new land uses or professions. This cycle works similarly for farmers though they might not be getting the profit they expected, if other commodities that they need are also valued at market prices they will invest in new innovation to increase the efficiency of their farm or invest in new business ventures with their savings. Again bringing to market new products and increasing supply and lowering prices.

    "It must be noted that the advent of farm subsidies only followed policy failure and low prices. The latter created the need for the former. Cutting commodity subsidies therefore cannot be viewed as a quick fix for overproduction and low prices."

    This is bunk. People need to eat food, right? Well for thousands and hundreds of years producers and consumers of food have worked out a system in which both profit either nutritionally/calorically and economically. If farm subsidies really worked out to the betterment of humanity then how do we still have starving people and a glut of food?

    "Simply put, sweets and fats cost less, while many healthier foods cost more."

    This is correct. Note when they talk about fats they mean the ones we subsidize like soybean and corn oil mostly. Funny how corn is both a fat AND a sweet all while really being a grain We also incentivize via the dread Farm Bill farmers to grow these crops to exclusion of anything else. And punish them if they do not or if they want to lease out their land to someone who wants to grow other crops. Isn't that ridiculous?

    While I think this article highlights some problems with our food system. It smacks of disallowing consumers to choose for themselves. If fast food restaurants and the twinkie corporation had to purchase their ingredients at a market price people would still buy their product but would have to pay a market price for it up front.

    In case you can't tell I get my primal panties all in a bunch about this Farm Bill/Ag Policy business.


    • #3
      I just downloaded the PDF, you can PM me your email address (should be a link on my profile) and I'll send it to you.

      I try to keep out of politics and policy as much as possible so I don't have any strong opinions about it, haha. Although I can't see how it could be a bad thing, encouraging farmers to grow more fruits and vegetables (you know, FOOD) rather than crops to turn into syrups and oils and whatnot.
      "mayness, you need to have a siggy line that says "Paleo Information Desk" or something!" -FMN <3

      I'm blogging again, at least a little bit.