The contradictions of our government’s policies around food become clear as soon as you compare the federal recommendations for the American diet, known as MyPlate, with the administration’s agricultural policies. While MyPlate recommends a diet of 50 percent vegetables and fruits, the administration devotes less than 1 percent of farm subsidies to support the research, production and marketing of those foods. More than 60 percent of that funding subsidizes the production of corn and other grains — food that is mostly fed to animals, converted to fuel for cars or processed into precisely the sort of junk the first lady is urging us to avoid.
How could one government be advancing two such diametrically opposed goals? By failing to recognize that an agricultural policy is not the same as a food policy — and that the former does not necessarily contribute to public health.
Our food system is largely a product of agricultural policies that made sense when the most important public health problem concerning food was the lack of it and when the United States saw “feeding the world” as its mission. These policies succeeded in boosting the productivity of American farmers, yet today they are obsolete and counterproductive, providing billions in public support to an industry that churns out a surfeit of unhealthy calories — while at the same time undermining the ability of the world’s farmers to make a living from their land.