Law For Food: The law affects what you eat. What you buy to eat affects the law.


Pollan on The Farm Bill
25 April 2007, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Ethics of Eating, Regulation

One of the things that I suspected would enter into the conversation at some point is the amount of money that is spent subsidising the American diet. U.S. Farm subsidies, as part of the federal budget, are an aspect of the idea that the law affects what you eat. Shouldering some of the burden of production of certain commodities, which gives those commodities a comparative advantage in the marketplace relative to commodities which must support themselves in the marketplace.

Michael Pollan’s recent article in the New York Times (free subscription, regrettably, required) discusses the Farm Bill at some length, and is worth reading. Notable:

And though we don’t ordinarily think of the farm bill in these terms, few pieces of legislation have as profound an impact on the American landscape and environment. Americans may tell themselves they don’t have a national land-use policy, that the market by and large decides what happens on private property in America, but that’s not exactly true. The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America: whether it will be farmed or left wild, whether it will be managed to maximize productivity (and therefore doused with chemicals) or to promote environmental stewardship. The health of the American soil, the purity of its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no small part to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill.

This relates to the point I made yesterday about the economics of raw milk and grain-fed dairy cows: since, e.g., corn production in the U.S. is highly subsidized, corn and corn-derived products make their way into a great many other products such as diary feed, which can contribute to E. Coli in unpasteurized milk. Without corn subsidies, would raw milk tend to be safer?

(Hat tip: The Ethicurean)

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