American Society For Nutrition

How Agricultural Policies Affect Nutrition

How Agricultural Policies Affect Nutrition

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Posted on 02/18/2014 at 02:23:41 PM by Suzanne Price
By John Courtney, PhD, ASN Executive Officer

The recent passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (also known as the Farm Bill) provides a new opportunity to examine the intrinsic relationship between agriculture and nutrition. Increased agricultural productivity and maintaining good nutrition are acutely interrelated when it comes to addressing health issues in America. Although individual food choices can be influenced by a number of different drivers, agricultural policy is certainly one of those drivers.

It has been posited that current agricultural policies contribute to increased consumption of less healthy foods and increased rates of obesity by making certain commodities more abundant and therefore cheaper. Many agricultural policies and programs were developed when prices for crops and livestock were fragile and could bottom out, leaving farmers desperate for income to support their families. Subsidies were created as a means of supporting farmers and the crops that they produce and as a way to provide a reliable and secure food source for Americans. Government funds are provided to farmers to supplement their income and influence the cost and supply of commodities. Subsidies have tended to promote overproduction, leaving excess commodities available for both human and animal consumption, often at a lower cost. Traditional subsidy programs primarily support production of eight major commodity crops, many falling into the grain category: barley, corn, cotton, oats, rice, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat.

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