The United States Department of Agriculture’s guideline for a healthy diet is illustrated with a plate divided into fourths. The largest portions on the plate are fruits and vegetables; next comes grains; and, lastly, proteins. The USDA lists the following foods as good proteins: seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products. So, if you are varying your protein sources, as the USDA recommends, meat makes us a very small percentage of a healthy diet. If vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts are so important to a healthy diet, then why does the government allocate next to nothing to help farmers who grow those crops, while spending billions to feed meat animals?
“According to recent data from Metonomics, the American government spends $38 billion each year to subsidize the meat and dairy industries, but only 0.04 percent of that (i.e., $17 million) each year to subsidize fruits and vegetables.” –The Medium
Subsidies that prop up an unhealthy and destructive industry are unacceptable. And while the USDA does have programs geared toward helping farmers switch to more sustainable practices, they are small, and completely sidelined by Trump, who gave unprecedented billions to farmers without any oversight through a loophole and without congressional approval. And most of the money went to large farmers. The top 1% received 26% of the payments and 62% of farms received no help.
Here in New Hampshire, most of our farmers, excluding a few dairy operations, are considered “small farmers”. That means our farmers do not benefit from government subsidies. Instead of supporting large meat industries by paying for the grains they feed their animals, shouldn’t we in New Hampshire be supporting our local farmers instead?
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?!
Eat Less Meat! Sure, it won’t stop the subsidies, but it will send a strong message to the beef producers… we don’t want products that hurt our planet!
Stop subsidizing unsustainable agriculture. Unfortunately, the federal subsidy programs are very entrenched and wrapped up in big Farm Bills (which include benefits as well as drawbacks). Senator Jeanne Shaheen voted to extend them in 2013. Both Senator Maggie Hassan and Senator Jeanne Shaheen voted for them in 2018. Representatives Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster both voted against them in 2018. Write to your Senators and Representatives with your thoughts on subsidizing beef and other destructive farming techniques.
Support a Green Recovery, including the re-allocation of federal money toward sustainable farming practices (hint: no beef). Write to your senators and representatives about including the reduction of meat subsidies in the program.
Tax beef production! Mark Bittman makes a great argument for taxing unhealthy foods instead of subsidizing them. Beef seems like a great candidate for a tax, especially beef raised in unsustainable ways. We should definitely be taxing (and boycotting) beef coming from countries that destroy rainforests, but I think we should tax it all, at varying levels.
Shop Local and Support Small Farmers Our farmers in New Hampshire need our support. Buy your fruits and vegetables as locally as possible whenever possible. The government may have its priorities all messed up, but we don’t have to! Shop your local farmers markets and/or join a CSA.
Photo credit: ABC News
I hope this gets you fired up to make change!
Thoughts on Government Subsidies? Feelings about the 2018 Farm Bill?