The summer after my first year of college, I took my political passion to the streets and got a job as a door to door fundraiser for various progressive causes. I could write a whole other essay about this, but suffice to say, please be nice to canvassers. We hate us too. Anyway, after a summer of knocking doors, much of my political passion had been replaced for a feverish anger about how much money the government spends on corn.
Do you have any idea how much the government spends on corn? Between 1996 and 2016, the government spent over $21 billion on direct payments to corn farmers. And that was only on direct payments. In total, over ten years, the federal government used $106 billion of our taxes for corn payments. That's around $10 billion a year. On corn.
I've never spent a dime of my own money to buy corn in the store, but a tiny part of my paycheck goes to corn. Every two weeks. I'm technically buying way more corn than I ever wanted to be buying.
And that's only one of the crops the United States subsidizes. In ten years, the government spent $35 billion on soybeans, $43 billion on wheat, and $37 million on cotton. Before you ask, no there are not subsidies for vegetable production. That's why half of the 300 million acres this country uses for agriculture are used for corn and wheat, and only 14 million are used for vegetables.
Thanks to the Farm Bill, which has been around since the 1930s, the government has removed a lot of the risk from growing crops like wheat, corn and soybeans. Those incentives are not present for fruits and vegetables and lots of farmers, sensing the changing winds, shifted production from risky crops to subsidized crops. Farmers aren't dumb. They were going to take the help the government was offering, and I can't be mad, I'd do the same if the government subsidized some aspects of my work and not others.
Technically, since I work for the state, all of my work is government subsidized. But you get the idea.
I'm not mad at the farmers, or even the government. Our nation sometimes spends money on things that make no sense. Here's what bothers me.
We're all told that in order to be healthy, we should eat more fruits and vegetables and less high fructose corn syrup. And then our government turns around and spends billions to produce...high fructose corn syrup. I don't think we can talk about the so-called "obesity epidemic" without acknowledging that there are billions of dollars funneled into unhealthy foods, and no incentive for farmers to produce fresh fruits and vegetables.
It's almost as if there were whole systems in place that make it hard to lose weight. Funny how our government complains about the cost of obesity while also doing nothing to change the system that produces few vegetables and way too much unhealthy food.
Well that got me riled up. I have to go watch my favorite commercial about farmers now. Paul Harvey's voice always calms me down.