AGRIBUSINESS dominates the agriculture committees of Congress, and has swatted away most efforts at reform. But what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes? It will promptly get involved in the fight over the farm bill -- which is to say, the industry will begin buying seats on those agriculture committees and demanding that the next bill be written with the interests of the public health more firmly in mind.
Cheap food is cheap only because American taxpayers pay for it in ways both obvious and subtle--from agricultural subsidies for grain and the livestock that fattens on it to food safety mishaps to our soaring medical bills. While industry sponsored "pundits" and radio shock jocks rant on and on about "food nannies" limiting our "choices," for millions of low income Americans there is no real choice--they buy what they can afford, and what they can afford is predetermined by a politically driven agricultural and retailing system over which they have very little say or control.
So, as with so many things, food offers us a choice: pay me now, or pay me later. Frankly, given the quality of life costs incured by a food system built around quick profit rather than human needs, this choice seems like a no brainer to me.
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