Agriculture Policy is Health Policy

U.S. farm policy has created a food system that often is damaging to our health, our environment and our national security. This article examines the impact on three major health issues—rising obesity, food safety and environmental health, especially exposure to toxic substances and pesticides.

Government agricultural policies extend from the 1930s when federal policy-makers passed laws to create price stability and ensure the long-term economic viability of farming, particularly for family farmers. In the 1970s, farm policy shifted away from maintaining price stability to ensuring low prices and maximizing production of certain commodity crops that could be bought and sold on the international market. As farm policy has evolved, it has resulted in many negative consequences.

Key Findings:

  • Farm policy effectively subsidizes the production of lower-cost fats, sugars and oils that intensify the health-destroying obesity epidemic.
  • Farm policy amplifies environmentally destructive agricultural practices that impact air, water and other resources.
  • The Farm Bill enriches food processors and corporate farmers at the expense of family farms, and leads to ever greater consolidation of food production.

American farm and food policies are major vectors of diet-related disease and are contrary to our nutritional, environmental, and economic needs. Arguing that a healthy food system should ensure the well-being of both consumers and farmers (in addition to the producers, processors and distributors upon whom they depend), the authors make several recommendations for personal, institutional and regulatory actions that health professionals can take to influence future food policy.