What if Michelle and Pollan Get Their Way?
Feb 11, 2010
By Steve Cornett
Just a reminder that what has always been may not always be. A quote from a Wall Street Journal editorial this morning:
The Administration wants $10 billion to fund more nutritious school breakfasts and lunches, and here's a modest proposal: Take the money out of U.S. farm subsidies that make unhealthy foods artificially cheap. Most of the excess calories in the American diet come in the form of highly processed starches, and Tufts University's Timothy Wise estimates that since the 1996 farm bill corn and soybeans have been priced 23% and 15% below average production costs.
I’m not here to argue for or against that sentiment. I am here to remind the reader that the WSJ is the rightward tick to the New York Times’ leftward tock. And the NYT has long since bought into Michael Pollan’s arguments along those very lines.
That argument holds that farm policy is aimed at providing cheap calories. Cheap wheat makes cheap Twinkies. The Pollan Principle holds, further, that subsidized food production also creates excessive energy demand and pollution.
Anytime I bring this up, I am reminded that the farm lobby is too strong to fail. Their success with ethanol makes me think that may be so.
However, if we have both sides arguing against cheap calories, at a time when the national deficit is under attack on both sides, you’ve got to wonder just how strong the lobby really is.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time today on what it would mean to producers if the U.S. got serious about subsidizing asparagus and apples instead of corn, wheat and cotton.
But I’m sure the current administration would like to do that. You don’t have to read as many USDA press releases as I do to know that these guys have a different view of how the farm-to-plate process should work.
I’m not even sure I disagree with them.
I’m just wondering what the impact would be on the system—and the producers who’ve been working in that system for generations—if they really manage to get the change they want.