Saving the Family Farm
Recently, it seems like many of my friends are talking to me about food. First of all, I want to say that I’ve given up hot pockets and cereal, and I’m starting to eat much healthier. But what I want to talk about is the food debate, namely the vilification that capitalists get when it comes to food. I recently watched the documentary “Food, Inc.” and I can see the complexities of the issues that many of my friends are talking about. I’ll try to list them here:
– Animals are treated poorly on factory farms
– Poor treatment leads to disease and contamination of the food supply
– Big business is evil and monopolizing the food industry
– Illegal immigrants are used and abused as cheap labor
– Hormones are used in foods to make them bigger
– America is getting fatter because of fast food
– The small family farm has died.
I absolutely agree that all these issues are sad and horrible. I want to fight these issues just as much as any vegan. But I think some of the solutions would actually cause more harm than good. For example, the documentary Food, Inc. offers these solutions:
– Vote with your money, choosing healthy farms and organics
– Government should do more to help
– We should all grow our own gardens
Okay, well growing gardens is nice, and voting with money is also a good idea. The problem is that I don’t have much money. I’m literally living on pocket change right now, and I can barely muster up the money to buy myself a loaf of bread, let alone buy the seeds and everything for a garden. Just outside my apartment complex is an organic food store, with every brand of soy milk on the market right now, but the prices are almost double what I’d pay for a gallon of regular milk at the grocery store. And I even stopped buying milk because it’s too expensive. It’s a nice idea to vote with my money and choose the healthy choices, but as the documentary Food, Inc. points out, unhealthy food is so much cheaper!
The other solution, that government should do more, I think is actually quite damaging, and makes the problems much worse. After all, it’s because of government trying to help that the whole problem started to begin with.
Every single one of the problems listed above can be traced to “farm subsidies”.
In 1996, Bill Clinton wanted to help out the family farm, so he passed the Farm Bill, which subsidized corn. This made corn cheaper. But, it only made corn cheaper for the large farms. Small family farms had to struggle to produce corn at market value. Big farms were getting a special deal from government to grow corn that was cheaper than market value. The result? Small farms started to die out.
At the same time, government passed all kinds of laws that helped large agri-businesses and hurt small farmers. It was all in the name of “helping the poor family farmer,” but the money didn’t go to the small farms. It went to the big farms, with teams of lawyers who could claim all the subsidized money for themselves.
The cheap American corn killed off the Mexican corn industry, and all those farmers lost their jobs. They all started flooding to America to try to make money, hence the influx of illegal workers and poor conditions.
The new factory farms created atrocities against animals that became commonplace, like overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and hormone induction. And because of collusion with government, they could get away with it.
Because corn was artificially cheap, unhealthy foods became artificially cheap as well. It was much cheaper to drink four cans of soda than to eat a salad. And I don’t think it’s fair to demonize the fast food industry for this. There are lots of restaurants that are unhealthy. Many restaurants like the “Olive Garden” and “Old Country Buffet” get a free pass when it comes to the food debate, but they are even more unhealthy than McDonalds. The bigger problem is that unhealthy food is artificially cheap.
And it all started with government trying to help.
I say, stop trying to help us, government!
Get rid of farm subsidies, and all the farming and food laws, and let America become healthy on its own. It’s the libertarian solution.