The Great Depression brought about a series of acts starting in 1933 concerning corporate welfare and agriculture policy (USDA). The Agriculture Act of 1949 is the permanent piece of legislation in effect today even though there are subsequent temporary laws that are put into place in order to keep current with the ever-changing economy. Once our current farm bill expires, it will revert back to the Agriculture Act of 1949 which is the permanent law concerning Agriculture subsidies (Caldwell, 2012).
Whether or not current agriculture policy (corporate welfare) has been successful depends on who you ask. If you ask agri-business giants who make up 10% of the farms collecting subsidies, they received 75% of the $277.3 billion in subsidies during 1995 through 2011 (EWG). However, 62% of US farms did not collect any subsidies at all (EWG). So it appears that if you ask the majority farms, the policy controlling subsidies was not successful. However, the subsidies are becoming the bread and butter for the 10% of farms in the US and they are fighting relentlessly by lobbying Capitol Hill in order to keep American tax money by pushing a new bill to override the Act of 1949.
Big interest corporations virtually control much of our government by being a huge participant in writing the very legislation they are lobbying for. The argument that we hear time and again is that if it weren’t for our big business friends lobbying for their own welfare, the prices of milk, meat, and wheat would rise for consumers. Of course this gets the average American shaking in their boots. But what many of us don’t realize is that we are already paying these big businesses billions of dollars every year from our pockets in the first place! More importantly, the products that would rise in price (e.g., dairy products, meat, and processed foods) are the very foods that are causing the epidemics of modern society (e.g., cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and global warming) and thus also bolstering the healthcare crisis (Campbell, 2006; Campbell et al., 2011; Robbins, 2011; IPCC).
Animal agriculture including the beef, chicken, dairy, and pork industries rely on lobbying in order to have control over their markets and make big money off of our tax dollars. They also now have heinous control over our government. Take for instance how the FDA conducted 50,000 inspections for food safety in 1972 but only conducted 9,164 in 2006 (Take Part, 2012). Perhaps this might have something to do with the fact that when Bush was in office, James F. Fitzgerald was the USDA chief of staff but was formerly the chief lobbyist for the Washington beef industry (Take Part, 2012). In addition, Lester M. Crawford, Jr. was the head of the FDA during the Bush administration but was formerly the Vice President of the National Food Processors Association (Take Part, 2012).
I feel that there needs to be legislation put into place as to regulating how big businesses can lobby for our tax money. Due to the government becoming interweaved with corporate welfare and visa-versa, there needs to be a gradual decrease in the subsidies given out to big business interests and evened out to distribute funds to small produce farms and businesses to help bring produce prices down. I would also back initiatives and campaigns in place to support fresh whole foods to low income communities. The country and the world would benefit in many ways (e.g., eliminating and/or decreasing the top killers in America, our healthcare costs, effects of global warming, deforestation, etc.) from greatly reducing the production and consumption of animal based and processed foods and replacing them with fresh produce and whole-foods (Campbell, 2006; Campbell et al., 2011; Robbins, 2011; IPCC).
Caldwell, J. (2012, October 1). Agriculture.com. Retrieved from http://www.agriculture.com/news/policy/farm-bill-lapses-whats-next_4-ar26646
Campbell, T. C. (2006). The China Study. Dallas: BenBella Books.
Campbell, T.C., Esselstyn, C.B. Jr., et al. (2011). Forks Over Knives. Virgin Films & Entertainment.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) - Farm Subsidies. The United States summary information. Retrieved from http://farm.ewg.org/region.php?fips=00000
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Reports. Retrieved from http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/publications_and_data_reports.shtml#.UPN7xfLhfxk
Robbins, J. (2011). The Food Revolution. San Francisco: Conari Press.
USDA. Food distribution programs history and background. Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/aboutfd/history.htm
Take Part (2012). 18 Food Inc. facts everyone should know. Retrieved from www.takepart.com/photos/food-inc-facts/monsanto-in-1950