Fruits and veggies take up half #myplate, but they only get less than 1% of agricultural subsidies. Protein is a quarter of the plate, with dairy a modest-looking glass on the side. Even if you assume that the protein quarter is only meat (which isn’t actually the case, because beans, tofu, and other vegetarian options also provide protein), there’s no reason that it needs 63% of the agricultural subsidy. At least, not if supporting your own recommendations is important.
Second, Utne Reader highlights Kitchen Gardeners’ dueling maps of Michelle Obama’s organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn – what is actually planted there, and what would be planted there if her garden reflected federal subsidies. Obviously, meat and dairy aren’t represented here, but you get the general idea:
So unless you eat corn, corn, and more corn, with some soybeans and tobacco thrown in for variety, you aren’t eating what the government supports with taxpayer dollars. At least, not directly (keep in mind that corn and soybeans are also used for animal feed, so unless you eat grass-fed everything in your meat diet, you probably are eating corn, corn, and more corn in some fashion). Here, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and ‘other specialty crops’ are less than 1% of the total subsidy, again. Does #myplate really make fruits and vegetables look like specialty crops? I certainly wouldn’t consider half of every meal a specialty.
What does this mean for the consumer? Even without considering increasing gas prices (and therefore, increased transportation costs for the food you’re eating), if you eat what USDA suggests you eat, your food bill is likely to go up, because half of your food is hardly subsidized by the government at all. How is that serving the American public?
And that’s just within USDA itself. How about the conflict between subsidizing foods that cause health problems (like obesity, diabetes, and other non-hereditary diseases)? Or having the Farm Bill be at odds with the First Lady’s attempts to combat these issues in kids? That’s HHS, the CDC, and the White House up against USDA. That certainly doesn’t seem like an efficient way to run government.
In fact, the President and Congress agree with me. The Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 aims to avoid overlapping government programs to increase efficiency and effectiveness for the American people. In addition, agencies in the Obama administration are collaborating in a way that is unprecedented at the federal level. HUD, DOT, and EPA are jointly funding grants designed to further sustainablilty in housing, transportation, and the environment. Six agencies are collaborating across agency boundaries to combat domestic and sexual abuse. And nine agencies are collaborating (for better or for worse, depending on your opinion of this topic) about building transmission lines on federal lands. Trust me when I say that federal agencies talking to each other regularly, let alone really collaborating, is nothing short of miraculous.
So…. <insert crickets chirping here> why exactly aren’t we subsidizing the foods the government is telling us we should eat to be healthy? Is USDA exempt from that whole collaboration idea?