Food Is Freedom: How Washington’s Subsidies Helped Make Americans Fat and Sick

Farm subsidies are perhaps the ultimate, but secret, third rail of American politics. While entitlements are discussed out in the open, farm subsidies are rarely talked about – even though they are the most expensive subsidy Washington doles out.

All told, the U.S. government spends $20 billion annually on farm subsidies, with approximately 39 percent of all farms receiving some sort of subsidy. For comparison, the oil industry gets about $4.6 billion annually and annual housing subsidies total another $15 billion. A significant portion of this $20 billion goes not to your local family farm, but to Big Aggie.

(Note that this $20 billion annual farm subsidy figure doesn’t take into account the 30+ years of ethanol subsidies to the corn industry nor export subsidies to U.S. farmers issued by the USDA.)

The government never properly explains why this is. Certainly small farmers are growing their crops at enormous risk. However, it’s not clear that agriculture is any different than other high-risk industries – especially because the United States is blessed with some of the most fertile farmland in the world, and a highly skilled labor force.

Subsidies don’t just cost taxpayers, an expense that might properly be justified by showing a return on investment. Subsidies also provide powerful disincentives against innovation, as well as cost effectiveness and diversification of land use.

There is also a strong case to be made that farm subsidies are a major driver of the obesity and cancer epidemic in the United States. Every time Washington interferes in the private sector, they are picking winners and losers. The winners chosen are companies producing food that’s high in calories and low in nutritional density – and that helps make Americans sick and fat, because it distorts what food is available at what price.

While President Trump has sometimes discussed reducing farm subsidies, the solution to the problem is much more radical – the total elimination of all farm subsidies from the federal budget.

Food Subsidies in the United States

There have long been federal programs in the United States propping up the agricultural sector. For example, the Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant universities with a focus on agricultural education. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 similarly provided funding for agricultural education.

The first program similar to the farm subsidies of today was the Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916. This still exists in the form of the Farm Credit System, which currently holds $280 billion in assets. This Act came out of a study done by progressive Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. At this time, rural Americans made up the bulk of the United States’ population.

The Act allowed farmers to borrow 50 percent of the value of their land and 20 percent of the value of their improvements. Loans were available between $100 and $10,000 and amortized between five and 40 years. It was intended to provide poor farmers with an alternative source of credit from large banks. The successor of this Act, the Farm Credit System, currently provides approximately a third of the credit in rural America.

The Great Depression, the New Deal and Farm Subsidies

As with many other aspects of American economic life, farming changed with the advent of the Great Depression and the New Deal, which, at least it was argued, sought to minimize the impact of the worst parts of the Depression.

The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929 was passed on the watch of Republican President Herbert Hoover, widely blamed for the Depression and maligned as having “done nothing” to protect Americans from it. This Act created the Federal Farm Board, which was itself a modification of the Federal Farm Loan Board.

Hoover believed that he could halt the collapse of agricultural prices by buying, selling and storing surplus grains. Another method to prevent the collapse was to lend to farmers on generous terms. Farmers used the loans to purchase seed and feed. This was particularly important in the South, where farmers were just getting over a drought.

This had a very predictable effect: Farmers began raising more crops than they knew they could sell. They knew the government would buy whatever they produced, and the bill contained no production limit. Deflation was not countered and the Depression worsened for American farmers. The federal government spent $500 million before the program was abolished in 1933.

The real expansion of federal subsidies for the American farmer began under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Programs enacted under FDR’s New Deal included price supports for commodities, regulations on the supply of farm commodities, barriers to prevent importation of farm commodities, and crop insurance programs. These programs, while modified and greatly expanded, form the basis of current federal farm policy. There is no other way to describe this than central planning.

The first major program passed by FDR as part of the New Deal was the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. This was the somewhat infamous program that had the government paying farmers to not plant crops, to dump out milk and the like when people were going hungry in the streets. Not only did it look bad, it was also declared unconstitutional in 1936, in the United States v. Butler case, on the grounds that the Constitution made agricultural regulations a state matter. This was in the ancient days, when the Supreme Court declared acts unconstitutional when the Constitution did not authorize them to do so.

The first replacement was the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936. This paid farmers to plant fewer crops on the basis that it was preventing topsoil erosion. A more straightforward replacement, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, preserved many of the earlier provisions of its 1933 cousin, and was passed at a time when the Supreme Court was more amenable to the wishes of President Roosevelt following his proposed threat to pack the court with up to 15 judges. This new version of the Agricultural Adjustment Act mandated price supports for broad sections of American agriculture. When challenged in court, the Supreme Court ultimately upheld it under (what else) the commerce clause.

Commodity price and income supports are now a staple in the federal budget. But what does the money go toward?

Where Do Farm Subsidies Go?

Farm subsidies are often painted as the last refuge of the American small farmer. But even a close examination of where farm subsidies go reveals that nothing could be further from the truth. The 10 largest recipients of aid receive between $14 million and $23.7 million, averaging $18.2 million, or approximately $1.8 million per year for what are giant agricultural combines. Part of this is a deliberate result of United States agricultural policy – after the Second World War, farmers were told to “get big or get out.”

Let’s look at some startling facts about U.S. farm subsidies:

• Over 6,000 farming companies and combines received more than $1 million federal aid in the years between 2008 and 2018.

• This constituted a total of over $11 billion in this 10-year period.

• 18 different farming entities received over $10 million.

• Over $626 million went to urban areas – i.e., places with over 250,000 residents and precisely zero farms.

• The five most populated cities in America (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) received a collective $18 million in farm subsidies. 25 percent of all subsidies went to someone receiving over $250,000 in subsidies.

• The 150 most affluent zip codes in America received $5 million in subsidies in 2017 alone.

• What’s more, the government is still paying farmers to not farm.

• 12 members of Congress received as much as $637,059 in farm subsidies in 2017.

All of this adds up to underscore the true nature of America’s food subsidy system: It’s a massive welfare program directed at the rich and affluent, which artificially distorts food prices for everyone.

Perhaps worst of all, the massive farm subsidies aren’t keeping people out of debt. American farmer debt currently stands at $409 billion. Wheat is receiving $45.9 billion in subsidies while corn is getting $112 billion. Farmers received $12 billion in aid from the Trump Administration to help hedge against potential losses from the trade war with China. While it’s difficult to say to what extent any of this is vote-buying, it is worth noting that Iowa is the second-largest recipient of USDA subsidies, only slightly behind Texas.

But if the story here were simply one of government largesse, this would be a very short article, indeed. The story is much deeper, and goes to the heart of health and wellness in the United States.

Continue reading Food Is Freedom: How Washington’s Food Subsidies Have Helped Make Americans Fat and Sick at


100% yes, and also the solution to a number of other problems is to remove the greedy SOB’s




Nice how the link picks up at the right spot to continue :+1:


Wow, you just traced my western Iowa families history. Great Grandfather bought and cleared over 10,000 acres, got real big with the assistance of those early policies. He had 19 children, they were all gifted at least 80 acres, my Grandfather was the youngest so he got the home farm and 80 acres with it. Great Grandfather lost the rest in the depression, two angles here, he was co-signing on notes for his neighbors as the pre-depression downturn in farming started, one thought he was just helping out the neighbors, the other angle is he was a land speculator and was hoping to get ahold of these neighbors land. Ended up even bigger fish swam in and snagged up tons of land. My Grandfather was farming that 80 acres with two mules and raising three children when the draft board reclassified him and he became a WWII sailor. On return he had to start over, livestock and mules had all been sold to pay taxes, brothers didn’t get much if anything for crops. That 80 acres made some good money for the bank over the years, the debt it took to get rolling again pretty much tied him to the system. He did well on some programs, government paid a bunch for terraces, ponds, waterways, and such. He would do most of the work himself with an H tractor and a modified horse drawn dump buggy. He had to work 40 hours a week to support a family but they grew up on the farm. I look around now and see the land being raped in the name of a “green fuel”, a massive bi-culture of corn and beans being raised for fuel, in the name of saving the environment.
Some of this is on the farmers for wanting the easy money. I struggle with my brother-in-law, he loses money raising a proper calf to butcher weight but beyond some horse trading doesn’t diversify the farm, some of this is the way the government has set up programs and some is how the banks structure their collateral for ag loans, this is how they will end up causing starvation in America, you can see it on the ground, my Grandfather raised 90% of their own food and used that to trade for the rest, I doubt my brother-in-law gets 5% of his diet off that farm and most of that would be venison! This isn’t a dig at him, this is just where ag is today, he works a forty and seems to find more debt as he goes.
I have most likely hit this topic before but the article begs a mention of this, an example of the actual on the ground mechanism the establishment uses to manipulate the system. The Iowa caucus, specifically this coming off year caucus. It’s a dirty little secret they don’t want known, how to control the the outcome of the Iowa presidential caucus. Check out the gaggle result and tell me the date of the 2022 caucus? Dig deep now… or just concede they don’t want you there.
The off year nobody has any interest so you only need a few friends to make sure you are elected to the various party offices and committees. These are the the positions needed to control the coming presidential caucus, they are the ones getting ass kissed in the smoky back room or fancy restaurant in des moines. You can blame the whole ethanol mess on a select few party “leaders” in Iowa, people that got rich and got out. 2010 they got their asses handed to them here, mostly red team with the Ron Paul coup but the blue team had some rebellion, they had owned it, but for some dirty rules changes they would have lost the state electors. I know they they doubled efforts, big business, big ag, whatever you want to call them there are a handful of people that control who you choose from and who is selected in Iowa. Cui Bono? Very seldom does an ethanol processor make big profit, lots of times they loose big. The seed, the fertilizer, the chemicals, OIL, that’s where the big money is made, that is where the control is exercised over the food system. That is who is raping the land for short term gains and getting by with it by hiring district of criminals lobbyists to camouflaging it as “green”. I used to think I could do something by inserting myself into the party mechanism, reality is the system is captured.


Not just subsidies, but the food pyramid is totally off from what a good diet should be. But the pyramid is political and not based on anything else.

It’s incredible. They lie and then don’t understand why we don’t trust them.


It’s easy to see how a nation of good people can be led to confuse morality with evil – especially when no one knows their history. And it’s no coincidence that anyone who contradicts the government gets branded a conspiracist (i.e. the 21st century’s heretic).


Great reply!


Easy to be a heretic to the PC religion :+1:


How soon until the PC Reformation? Has the PC Inquisition begun? Where’s the PC Luther, Bill Maher?

The sane want to know.