The recent passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 – also referred to as the Farm Bill –created an opportunity to examine the relationship between nutrition and agriculture. Maintaining a proper balanced diet and increased agricultural activity in the country are interrelated when it comes to addressing health issues (Courtney). Even though household food choices can be influenced by several different drivers, agricultural policies are among the major drivers. Over the recent past, it has been evidently posited that current agricultural policies influence the consumption of less healthy foods; thereby increasing the cases of obesity and other diet related illnesses.
How agricultural policies/ farm subsidies led to obesity and other diet related diseases
Agricultural and farm policies are usually developed when prices for livestock and crops are fragile and can easily bottom out. At such times farmers are desperate for incomes to support their families. Therefore, these policies are aimed at protecting the welfare of the farmers in the country. These policies may include farm bill programs as well as subsidies. However, these policies also make agricultural products more expensive or cheaper and may therefore reduce or increase the cost of certain types of foods. For instance, several food products that have been associated with obesity such as sugar, orange, and dairy, barriers are used to raise the prices of imports in order to raise the prices of the consumers. Balancing the effects of such policies with other policies that make agricultural products such as wheat, corn, and soybeans are aimed to make food commodities a little expensive for consumers.
Such impacts on commodities would imply small effects on the cost of food at the retail level, which, even if fully passed to the buyers would mean smaller percentage changes in prices faced by consumers. All in all, agricultural subsidies have led to lower process of food grains, but higher prices of cane sugar and beets. This is because of imposition of trade barriers on imports of sugar cane and beets. Recent researches have shown that the effect of reducing all subsidy programs would cause the prices of foods such as corn and wheat to increase; and the cost of foods such as sugar cane, soya beans, beets, fruits and vegetables, as well as beef to decrease (Sankin).
There has never been dearth of policy options. In order to beat obesity and other preventable diet related diseases, it is recommended the leveling of the playing field by extending insurance and subsidies programs more widely to vegetable and fruits producers in the country. The government may also take advantage of its own purchasing power, via such lunch programs as well as institutional buying decisions to help households make healthy choices. Any sort of farm bill should be designed and established with a view of eliminating the current perverse incentives of people eating unhealthy types of foods.
The case supporting significant changes in the farm subsidies to reduce the rate of obesity and other related diseases is quite straightforward. As seen above, farm subsidies will bring down the cost of certain farm products like corn and wheat, which will subsequently decrease the cost of certain foods such as cereal, bread, livestock products such as meal and dairy foodstuffs, as well as caloric sweetener derived from corn. This clearly shows that by eliminating and decreasing these farm subsidies, there would increase the cost of the above named foods and eventually decrease their consumption, while increasing the consumption and production of more healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits. Consequently, decreased consumption of these calorically-dense foodstuffs and the increased consumption of vegetables and fruits would lead to rates of obesity and related diseases in the country.
- Courtney, John. “How Agricultural Policies Affect Nutrition.” Altarum Institution, 18 Feb. 2014, altarum.org/health-policy-blog/how-agricultural-policies-affect-nutrition.
- Sankin, Aaron. “Agriculture Subsidies Promote Obesity, Charges New Study.” The Huffington Post, 18 June 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/agriculture-subsidies-obesity_n_3607481.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2016.