U.S. Farm Subsidy Program Adds to Worsening Obesity Trends

By Dr. Mercola

Agricultural policies in the US are contributing to the poor health of Americans, and, specifically, government-issued agricultural subsidies are worsening the US obesity epidemic, concluded a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.1

At the root of the issue?

Government-issued payments have skewed agricultural markets toward the overproduction of commodities that are the basic ingredients of processed, energy-dense foods,” the researchers wrote.

This includes corn, wheat, soybeans and rice, which are the top four most heavily subsidized foods.

By subsidizing these, particularly corn and soy, the US government is actively supporting a diet that consists of these grains in their processed form, namely high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soybean oil, and grain-fed cattle – all of which are now well-known contributors to obesity and chronic diseases.

Despite this widespread knowledge, public health officials have had little to say about this agricultural practice, yet it seems quite clear that they should. With the 2013 Farm Bill set to be finalized by the end of September 2013, this could be a key time to implement important policy changes in the near future.

The Farm Subsidy Program Is Junk — Literally

The US farm subsidy program is upside down, subsidizing junk food in one federal office, while across the hall another department is funding an anti-obesity campaign. This hypocrisy shows just how broken and wasteful our regulatory system really is.

Farm subsidies bring you high-fructose corn syrup, fast food, junk food, CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), monoculture, and a host of other contributors to our unhealthful contemporary diet.

Why would a farmer choose to plant lettuce or Swiss chard when the government will essentially “insure” their corn crops, paying them back if the market prices fall below a set floor price? Likewise with wheat and soybeans, the second and third most heavily subsidized crops, respectively.

Most of them wouldn’t… and that’s why the US diet is so heavily loaded with foods based on the surplus, nutritionally devoid crops of corn, wheat and soy. One of the effects of the farm bill is creating a negative feedback loop that perpetuates the highly profitable standard American diet. The US government is, in essence, subsidizing obesity and chronic disease!

As the new study reported:2

“American agricultural policy has traditionally failed to offer incentives or support for fruit and vegetable production. Farmers are penalized for growing specialty crops (such as fruits and vegetables)

If they have received federal farm payments to grow other crops. In other words, federal farm subsidies promote unsustainable agriculture while also failing to reward good stewardship.

Further, although farmers may generate higher marketplace revenue from fresh produce, substantially lower economic security makes growing fruits and vegetables a risky proposition in an already risky industry.”

Just Eight Crops Make Up Virtually All of US Cropland

If you’ve ever wondered why corn and soy products are so ubiquitous not only in US processed foods but as feed for livestock, including cattle, you need look no further than the makeup of US cropland. It’s reported:3

“In 2004, 96% of U.S. cropland was dominated by the eight main commodity crops: corn (30%); soybeans (29%); wheat (23%); cotton (5%); sorghum (3%); barley (2%); oats (2%); and rice (1%).

According to the American Soybean Association, 70% of the fats and oils consumed by Americans are soy oil, found primarily in cooking oils, baking, and frying fats. A large percentage of cropland is cultivated on a 2-year rotation that favors soy one year and corn the next, another purported contributor to obesity.

A conservative estimate of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) consumption suggests a daily average of 132 calories for all Americans aged 2 years, with the top 20% of consumers ingesting an average of 316 calories from HFCS per day.

Another important contribution of grains and oilseeds to the prevalence of obesity is their use as feed for livestock… As grain-fed livestock contribute to the oversupply of the commodities required to feed them, the harmful effects of grain and oilseed production are as widespread as they are indirect.”

Farm Subsidies Favor Large Corporate Farms, Force Small Farms Out of Business

Many are under the mistaken impression that farm subsidies are beneficial to small farmers, allowing them to stay afloat in years of poor harvests. Yet commodity subsidies are overwhelmingly going out to a select few mega farms — not to the small farmers who need them most! In fact, the broken farm subsidy system is responsible for not only encouraging monoculture but also for putting many small farmers out of business — while corporate-owned mega-farms grow ever larger.

Researchers continued:4

“Subsidies also have resulted in fewer farms and diminished agricultural diversity. Large farms often devote their entire capital and experience to producing one or two commodities, leaving smaller players to be regularly winnowed out at the profit of corporate farms and contractors. In 2001, large farms, which constitute 7% of the total, received 45% of federal subsidies, whereas small farms, constituting 76% of the total, received 14% of total payments.

Between 2003 and 2007, the top 10% of subsidized farmers received an annual average of $68,030, whereas the bottom 80% averaged $2312. Disproportionately allocated subsidies have contributed to forcing hundreds of small, biodiverse farms out of business at the profit of industrialized food processing.”

Farm Subsidies Are No Longer a Needs-Based System

While farm subsidies initially were created to protect staple crops during times of war, reduce crop surpluses and provide monetary support to farmers when crop prices fell, today mega-farms receive subsidies whether they need them or not. The transition away from a needs-based system came in 1996, when lawmakers developed a “market transition” payment system for farmers.

The idea was to phase out the subsidies over a seven-year transition period, during which farmers would receive an annual fixed cash payment based upon the number of acres on the farm (these direct payments were given as long as the land was not developed — even if nothing was planted). Of course, this ensures that the largest farms also receive the largest payments, and contrary to its original intent, the payments have not declined annually nor has the program gone away.  As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) explained:5

The industrial agriculture lobby has been defending the controversial “direct payment” form of taxpayer-funded subsidies ever since they were first authorized. These fixed, automatic checks go out every year to the largest growers of commodity crops, such as corn and cotton, whether farmers need them or not and despite the fact that farm household income has eclipsed average U.S. household income. Farm income for the largest operations, in particular, has soared sky high.”

And if you thought this all couldn’t get any more outrageous… it can, as it’s been revealed that under this absurd system, even dead farmers have received payments from the government. So have non-farmers who moved into residential areas that once were farmland, along with wealthy farmers who have received annual payments even when they are no longer growing the subsidized crop.

To Put It All in Perspective, Check Out Peter Jennings’ Classic Video

A classic video on the US government’s fatally flawed agricultural subsidy programs, and how they affect your nutritional choices and health, is “How to Get Fat Without Really Trying” with Peter Jennings. Although it’s several years old and Peter has passed away, the video still speaks the truth because virtually nothing has changed. If anything, the situation has, sadly, actually worsened.

Redesigning the System Could Help Fight Obesity and Protect the Environment

The time is ripe for change, and redesigning the system could help move us toward economic, and nutritional, recovery. The money is already there, but if we’re going to subsidize, let’s subsidize in a way that helps restore the health of our citizens and our land—programs that might just pay for themselves by the reduction in healthcare costs they bring about. The researchers noted:6

“A redesign of the subsidy system, rather than its elimination, is likely to yield more sustainable changes in the agricultural industry. Such revision could take the form of decoupling income supports from program-specific crops, and rewards for agricultural diversification.

The trickle-down effect of providing increased government support to farms growing sustainable, bio-diverse crops would not only help farmers reap greater economic benefits (as fruits and vegetables are among the products with the highest farm-retail value) but would contribute to large-scale efforts to address obesity by increasing the availability of fresh produce. Overall, government and public health activists should support policies that help disincentivize monocultural overproduction, not policies that fuel it.”

It sounds so logical, so obvious, doesn’t it? Yet it is the exact opposite of what is currently being done with farm subsidies. Mark Brittman of the New York Times similarly argued, back in 2011, that subsidy money, which is already IN the budget, could be redirected toward helping smaller farmers to compete in the marketplace.7 The money could be redirected, for example, in the following ways:

  • Funding research and innovation in sustainable agriculture
  • Providing incentives to attract new farmers
  • Saving farmland from development
  • Assisting farmers who grow currently unsubsidized fruits and vegetables, while providing incentives for monoculture commodity farmers (corn, soy, wheat, rice) to convert some of their operations to more desirable foods
  • Leveling the playing field so that medium-sized farms can more favorably compete with agribusiness as suppliers for local supermarkets

Help Support Small Farms with a Farm Bill That Works

If you don’t like the idea of your tax dollars lining the pockets of wealthy corporations that flood the market with sugary sodas, soybean oil and corn chips, now is the time to speak up. The Environmental Working Group has started a petition urging Congress to enact a Farm Bill that protects family farmers who help us protect the environment and public health, and you can sign it now.

But remember, you can also voice your opinion every day by voting with your wallet. Support small family farms in your area. Even if it means buying just one or two items at your local farmers market, instead of the big box store, those little purchases add up.

Return to a diet of real, whole foods—fresh organic produce, meats from animals raised sustainably on pasture, without cruelty, and raw organic milk and eggs. Say no to junk food producers by not buying it. Eating this way will earn you a long, healthy life—whereas the typical American diet may set you on the path toward obesity and chronic disease.

What does Cinderella have in common with carbs?

Ask nutritionist Dr Ramesh Bijlani. 25 years of research makes him the man to go to for answers on how to eat right

While researchers across the world bring you grim new data about how modern-day eaters are doomed to suffer ill How To Exercise Horse In The Heat .com/topic/health”>health, a gentleman in Delhi, who has spent a quarter of a century researching nutrition, says it’s lucky if you are Indian. Eating a healthy diet is simple for us, claims Dr Ramesh Bijlani, because a traditional desi meal meets most nutritional requirements, if current research findings are anything to go by. Moderation, not monasticsm, is key. “Intolerable dos and don’ts about foods are impressive, but not desirable,” says the expert, who is out with his latest book, Eating Wisely and Well
(Rupa Publications).

Bijlani takes on four questions most of us are itching to get answered:

Why do you compare carbohydrates with Cinderella?
About 70 per cent of the energy content of an Indian diet comes from carbohydrates. Yet, they are often looked down on, as if they are a necessary evil. Affluent Indians often declare with an air of superiority, ‘I eat no carbs’, little realising that if that’s the case, they are following a poor diet. The science of nutrition can safely assert that if 70 per cent of one’s energy comes from carbohydrates, it is an indicator of a healthy diet. Dietary carbohydrates can either contain starches (complex carbohydrates) or sugars (simple carbohydrates). The principal sources of starch are cereals, pulses, potatoes and bananas.

Cereals and pulses are a package deal. They provide not only carbohydrates but protein, too, a small quantity (but an important type) of fat, some vitamins, minerals and so on. So, eating cereals and pulses automatically ensures a supply of several other nutrients, which the body needs. In contrast, sugar is 100 per cent carbohydrate. For once, such purity is not desirable; it is better to consume carbohydrates ‘contaminated’ with protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.

New studies throw up contradicting data each day. How does one figure how much water to drink?
We need just enough water to balance loss through urine and sweat. The water requirement of an adult may vary from one to five litres a day. There are two indicators to how much water to drink — thirst, and the colour of urine. If we depend only on thirst, we might drink just enough water, but just enough is not good enough; a little more is always better. The colour of urine can guide us towards that. If we drink enough water to ensure that the urine is colourless, not yellow, the water intake is just right.

Dilute urine prevents kidney stones and infection. Stones are born as tiny crystals, and this crystallisation is less likely to occur if the urine is diluted. Germs also need food material to grow on, and therefore, grow more easily in concentrated urine.

Why is re-using heated oil a bad idea?
Heating changes the oil physically and chemically. Physically, the viscosity of the oil is altered. Chemically, it may acquire carcinogenic substances. This is more likely if the oil also contains suspended food particles, which may get burnt during cooking to produce carcinogens. That’s why oil left over after frying should not be used repeatedly. Oil left over after one cycle of frying should be used by adding to a vegetable or dal. Among the commonly used vegetable oils, the one that stands heat best is coconut oil.

What’s the hype over antioxidants?
Drawing energy from food involves a process similar to burning wood. Wood burns with the help of oxygen. The process involved in the release of energy is called oxidation. Oxidation has an unpleasant by-product — highly reactive chemical entities (called free radicals, or reactive oxygen species) that can cause damage to the cells in the body. To prevent this damage, we have two antioxidant mechanisms. One is in-built, and the other is sourced from diet. A few examples of non-traditional nutrients with antioxidant activity are resveratrol and flavonoids in grapes and tea; lycopene in tomatoes and watermelons; lutein in carrots, corn, and yellow fruits; and allyl sulphides in onion and garlic.

Best time to have water
1. Water dilutes the digestive juices. So, drinking water during meals weakens digestion. If you must, make sure it’s no more than one glass. But it also helps rinse the mouth between morsels, letting you enjoy the unmixed taste of each dish.
2. Drinking water before a meal fills up the tummy, making sure you eat less. This might help you lose weight.
3. Consuming water after a meal serves as a partial mouthwash, helping keep the teeth healthy.


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Daryl Hannah Arrested!

I used to hate Daryl Hannah, I thought she was a big wet pile of pissy girl blanket only useful for playing long birds with diluted personalities in crap 80s films.

So when I found out she was a naughty environmentalist that did pesky stuffs at rallies and protested against environmental wrongness etc, I was delighted but disappointed that I had one less celebrity to hate. Still, plenty more smelly crap fish in the shit celebrity ocean.

Hannah, the pesky protester is in the news today having got herself arrested (again) and led away in handcuffs from outside the White House, it seems for participating in a protest to oppose the laying of a dirty great pipeline between Canada and the gulf coast in Texas. The largest in the country apparently.

Daryl Hannah

Daryl Hannah - arrested

The star, most famous for her be-patched role in Kill Bill and be-scaled role in Splash told NBC reporters “Sometimes, it’s necessary to sacrifice your freedom for a greater freedom – and we want to be free from the horrible death and destruction that fossil fuels cause, and have a clean energy future,” shortly before being arrested. Later she was released after paying a hefty fine of one hundred bucks.

The lobbyist is known more for her advocacy of green living than her film career these days and has been arrested in the past twice already for her lobbying antics. Firstly in 2006, when she chained herself to a walnut tree in order to support farmers in LA and later in 2009, when in a bid to oppose strip mining, she participated in a sit-in in West Virginia.

Well done Daryl Hannah. In a sea of pretty ugly celebrities using every opportunity to self promote, it is refreshing to see someone using their celebrity status to further a cause and not because their new album/book/film is coincidentally about due for release.

Other celebrities who don’t mind speaking up for causes they believe in, despite the consequences include Morrissey – who upset everyone in the world recently.

If you would like to comment on this article, please use the comment box below.

Images: moviecatcher.net, boshank.com, ctv.ca

David Arquette fights for Calif climate law

Straight from his separation with Courtney Cox, quirky actor David Arquette has lent his celebrity weight to the campaign against a November ballot that would suspend California’s greenhouse gas emissions law.

The law, put in place in 2006, is there to encourage a statewide reduction in carbon emissions, bringing them back to the same levels as 1990 over the next decade.

In a one minute video called, “Don’t mess with California” Arquette is portrayed as the state of California, and dressed in an American-flag print kung-fu suit he proceeds to fend off the threat of thugs who represent Texan oil interests.

He visited Sacramento on Tuesday morning to promote the video and raise awareness of the campaign opposing Proposition 23.  Jared Ficker, head of the Green Technology Leadership Group said, “The spots will run on YouTube and other websites and are aimed at young voters who might not be won over by traditional campaign advertising.”

Ficker’s company are the brains behind the campaign and their action committee is also responsible for steering companies towards greener methods of energy use and production.

Oil companies have thrown a lot of money into supporting Proposition 23 which would see the 2006 law suspended and a potentially dangerous increase in greenhouse gas emissions from California.

Opponents of the law, known as AB 32 and set to be implemented in 2012, say it will cause unemployment and hurt smaller companies, however, Cleantech is a long term project which has projected the creation of 500,000 jobs in the next ten years – contradicting the spin from the oil companies.

Arquette is synonymous with the big screen but this is his first active foray into politics.  On the subject of his new mini-movie the 39 year old said, “It seemed like a great way to get the message across in a very intriguing way that young voters could tune into, start talking about, send to their friends, it’s all about getting people to the polls to vote for the future.”

He is not using the campaign as a distraction from his marriage troubles, “When I was told to come up here, that was a thought of mine,” he said, “but my belief is that the most important aspect of celebrity is you can raise awareness, lend your name and support to certain things and get people talking.  And that’s why I’m here.”

Click here to see Don’t mess with California

Share your thoughts on David’s political activism by leaving a comment.

Read about his separation from Courtney Cox, her IVF treatment and their combined victory over smoking.

Images: blogs.chron.com