The Corporate Takeover of American Farming

We are literally eating ourselves to death. For the first time in American history, the generations born after the baby boomers face a lower life expectancy than their parents did. This situation Is largely a result of a product that we cannot even eat until it has been processed into our food and drink supply. This food, plus a sedentary life-style, have caused an epidemic of obesity which has been on the rise in America for the past 30 years, increasing the rate of diabetes and other food- related Illnesses.

Because of the method of farming, the use of chemical fertilizers, ND the supply of genetically modified seed for crops of corn and soy, we have plenty of cheap food available in the US, but this food comes a at a cost. It causes so many problems with our health that we would be much better off with a lower quantity of a higher quality substitute which we would call wholesome food.

The primary Ingredient Is found In the most common element In our food supply: corn.

Not the type of sweet corn that you eat off the cob in the summer-time, but an inedible corn that must be processed at high heat levels to be transformed into a starchy mess before any mammal can eat it. This corn product Is in our food and our sweetened soft drinks. It Is used as cattle feed because It Is cheap and readies the cows for market in a shorter time than the grass which cattle have naturally evolved to eat.

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It is in ready-made foods and soft drinks in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Another ingredient grown by US farmers is soybeans.

These are also used to feed cattle and they wind up In two-thirds of all processed foods (Pollen p bib Corporations run the whole system to their ultimate benefit in the form of cheap feed and sweetener as inputs of production. Ethanol producers also benefit from the availably of cheap corn. This corn is farmed at a loss to farmers which the U. S. Government makes up for In the form of subsidies called deficiency payments. Without these subsidies, farmers would not be able to earn a living farming such a low-priced commodity.

Thesis The modern corporation has taken over the farming industry. What we have, as a result, Is a near serfdom In the personage of farmers who must follow the rules that corporations set when they draft the Farm Bill. Corporate lobbyists control the production of corn and soy beans for their own benefit. We, as taxpaying citizens, subsidize a system of over-production and farm subsidies which only allow farmers to barely survive volcanically, while ultimately benefiting only the corporations who write the rules for their own game In the end.

The result Is a diet which Is unhealthy for Americans to eat, causing obesity and a myriad of related health problems and farmers who have no say in the economics of agribusiness. Problem Because of the corporate control of farming In the United States, we are faced with a staggering set of problems which have no easy fix. Four corporations, Monsanto, DOD Chemical, Archer Daniels Midland, and the Cargill Group control the vast majority of the food supply (Wolf). One of every four Americans lived on a farm near ‘OFF ten turn AT ten TNT century (Pollen 3 ) Nine, a Tarter could supply enough T feed his family and twelve others also.

Today, less than two million people in the United States still farm. (ibid). Yet, they grow enough food to feed the entire population and then some. Today, in Iowa, what we used to call the “Bread Basket” of America, farmers grow nothing but corn and soy beans. Today’s typical farm is so productive that it can feed 120 Americans (ibid). American farmers are the most productive of all humans in any civilization in history. But this productivity comes at a high cost to humans, animals, and the entire ecosystem. Because corn is so abundant and cheap, it is used in various forms in the American food supply.

As stated above, this type of corn is inedible—for anyone or any animal. It must be processed and heated to a mush to make cattle feed and further processed to make liquid corn syrup. Cattle have evolved to eat grass, which they do for the first couple of years before they are shipped to feedlots where they re kept in crowded, inhumane conditions and fed this corn-based substance which fattens them up faster for slaughter. These conditions and food are so unhealthy for cattle that if they were fed it for another month before being shipped to the slaughterhouse, they would die (Wolf).

Cattle are kept alive in these conditions by the use of powerful antibiotics. They are also given growth hormones so they will yield more meet. Cattle are raised on feed made from corn and are injected with antibiotics and growth hormones. We eat cattle, and therefore we eat the anti-biotic and growth hormones in our beef. We drink sodas and other soft drinks which are sweetened with corn syrup. So much of our food and drink supply are full of this corn product. Yet this corn-fed meat is less healthy for us, because it contains less omega-3 fatty acids and more saturated fat than comes from grass-fed cattle (Pollen p 75).

Cafe’s?Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations—another phrase for feedlots, have caused several problems in the ecosystem with their waste byproducts (Pollen, 67). A recent article in Mother Jones reported that meatpacking giant, Tyson Foods, would no longer by cattle which have been injected with the popular growth Armonk, Climax made by Merck pharmaceuticals. In a letter to their Cafe’s they cited concerns over animal welfare: “there have been recent instances of cattle delivered for processing that have difficulty walking or are unable to move. ” (Philipp).

This announcement is sending showplaces through the CAFE industry. China, Russia and the European Union, already ban imports of cattle where Climax has been used. In fact, China bans all beef from the U. S. And instead rely on supplies from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, and New Zealand (Philipp). The problem is manifold. The sots include higher rates of obesity than at any time in our history. Before the ass’s, when cattle were mostly grass fed, our meat was less fattening and more natural. We can still buy beef from grass-fed cattle, but the cost is nearly twice that of corn-fed beef.

The cost of beef has gone down drastically in real terms over the past 30 years due to the abundant supply of cheap corn. Before our food supply changed to provide cheap beef, meat was a treat for most families. Today, the hamburgers we eat are kept cheap, and, as a result, we eat too much. The only people benefiting from his system are those who profit from corporations which run the system. Government policies, which are highly influenced by powerful lobbies of corporations wanly Duty corn, nave athletes ten economics AT Too supply In America Into a perverse system of over-production at any price paid at the grain elevators.

Market forces are out of balance in terms of equity due to the fact that so few players determine corn prices, both in the commodities market at the Chicago Board of Trade, and at grain elevators themselves. (National Family Farm Coalition). Farmers are at the mercy of mega-corporations such as Monsanto which determine how much deed costs, what seeds will be available, what crops will be grown, and what prices will be paid. Ultimately, the only real benefactors of this system are a handful of huge corporations, the players who keep the system running for their own benefit.

Other problems with the modern agribusiness system is genetically modified food products. A study done in 2010 revealed some disturbing effects of GM corn when fed to laboratory rats. The study found that the SMOG corn caused organ damage in the rats indicating that this could also present a danger to humans. The primary organs affected were the kidney and liver, both of which have the function of laminating toxins. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted.

Monsanto followed up with a crude 90 day study which, not surprisingly, found that the SMOG corn had no ill health effects. Scientists at JIBS had concluded stating “data strongly suggests that these GM corn varieties induce a state of heptagonal toxicity and that these substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown (Miami). It wasn’t always like this. Before World War II, more Americans worked farms and they planted a wide variety of crops.

They also kept cattle which provided not only income from their sale to slaughter houses, but also manure which made a great fertilizer for farm land and preserve the nitrogen needed for growth for other crops. There were problems with erosion which became obvious during the dust bowl years of the sass’s and which were addressed by the conservation corps to educate farmers to prevent erosion of the top soil . Crops were rotated to maintain a balance of essential ingredients for plant growth, especially nitrogen. Chemical redelivers were almost unheard of and they were not necessary because of the manure provided from cattle.

During WI, ammonium nitrate was used for explosives. After the war there was an overabundance of ammonium nitrate which so happens to be a rich source of nitrogen. The use of ammonium nitrate as a fertilizer caused a huge increase in harvests which were guaranteed year after year, only affected by bad weather. The use of chemical fertilizer has eliminated the need for farmers to rotate crops with anything other than soy beans, which are the other leg of farm production and also used as high protein foods for livestock.

The corn elevators are mostly owned by corporations now, not the farmer co-ops of yesteryear. In Iowa, the operators of the grain elevators will only buy corn and soybeans. So, the corporate owners of the elevators end up dictating not only the price of these commodities, but the type of commodities that farmers must plant. The price of corn falls whenever there is an abundant supply which has been the case in almost every year since Earl Butt, secretary of agriculture under the Nixon administration, changed farm policies that had been in effect from the time of the New Deal.

By encouraging farmers to plant crops in every available piece of land they owned, Butt ensured an annoyance TOT I en result came at Just ten relent time politically following a sharp increase in food prices in 1973. Butt would later argue that he had done the right thing based on the fact that there is more food available now at lower prices than at any time in history. (Wolf). The US government subsidizes cheap corn by direct payment to farmers for the approximate difference between the cost of production and the price of corn in a given year.

Thus, the only way for the farmers to arrive economically is to plant more and more corn. The perverse effect of this is that such overproduction only causes the price of corn to fall further and further the more that is produced and it is we the taxpayers who pay for the government’s deficiency payments to farmers (ibid). But who really benefits from this whole twisted system of agricultural economics? The big corporations such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, neither of whom sell directly to the public nor do they therefore have reason to answer to the public. Together both corporations buy the majority of he corn supply.

They are what economists would call monopolists– entities which corner the market on buying commodities and therefore have market power to control the price of a given commodity, such as corn and soybean at their grain elevators. This corn, as Pollen says in the Omnivore’s Dilemma, is “less a food than an industrial raw material?and an abstraction. ” (Pollen, p 64) Proposed Solutions All sorts of horrible things are set into motion by our corn policies. This paper cannot cover the entire scope but keep in mind that cattle are fed this corn to fatten them p faster in crowded feed lots which are unsanitary.

To keep the cattle from dying of disease before they can be slaughtered, the feed lot owners make sure they have plenty of antibiotics. Also, cattle evolved to eat grass, not corn. Many become ill due to an inability to digest the enormous quantities of corn they are fed. We eat this meat full of antibiotics and extracted from unhealthy cattle all so that we can have cheap hamburgers. The only way to change this perversion of nature is by paying careful attention to what we consume including fast food and even much of what can be found at a typical grocery store.

Still, there remain cattle which are grass fed and yield much leaner meat. This meat is more expensive, but if enough consumers want it, it is possible that enough could be supplied to bring down the price. This is one way of eliminating our dependence on unhealthy corn. Other ways of influencing farm policy, include keeping track of the voting records of U. S. Assembly members and senators, writing and calling them, and organizing or supporting grass roots organizations which address the Farm Bill and the lobbying that the few corporations do to get their version passed annually.

A situation where we see a return to regular farming, where a variety of crops are grown besides corn and soy beans, where cattle are raised on grass, and where more of the population returns to working farms is not likely. There are, however, some who are farming small plots of organic vegetation to feed their families with high-quality food. The ways that our food industry works can be changed with effort and organization among voters, who are the very consumers affected by the Farm Bill.

Because the Farm Bill is actually written by lobbyists for Monsanto, DOD, Archers-Midland, and Cargill, a solution lies UT of reach through their representatives for most Americans. These corporations Duty ten congress tongue Notations wanly assures teen AT tenet approval AT can and every item in the Farm Bill. Because of Citizens-United, these moneyed-interests are assured an unlimited amount of “free-speech” in the form of unlimited corporate donations. This is the one issue that will require years to change, but there are movements now to persuade congress to legislate Citizens United out of existence as the law of the land.

However, most are pessimistic about the chances of that happening while the Roberts Court is still around. A Call for Action Public education should be encouraged to reveal the results of our farm policy. By making information readily available concerning agric-business and Smog’s, demand for such food can change and a preference for healthy, naturally grown food can be realized. This is already happening among consumers who shop for organic foods at farmer’s markets around the country and among grass-roots political organizations which have as part of their goals the labeling of GM foods.

The presence of chain stores selling healthy food indicates there is strong enough demand to start hanging the market and working for a healthier America. Because of the power that corporations wield, the only way for consumers to change the food industry is through banding together, getting organized, and becoming involved politically. There is hope for change because ultimately what is supplied in the market is what consumers demand. Americans have changed their consumption of beef in the past few decades from an average of about 80 pounds per person annually, vs.. About 130 pounds in the mid-sass’s (Philipp).

That means that the big meat packers have had to rely on exports for profit growth. As consumers, we ultimately have the power to change demand. It is clear that demand for beef is elastic in relation to the price of beef. This is because there are substitutes. We can eat chicken, pork, or become vegetarians. It is up to us what we consume. Also, since ready-made foods usually have some corn product in their ingredients, it would be healthier to skip the convenience of these foods and return to fresh food preparation and cooking. Conclusion The situation with the food supply in the U. S. Is complex and perverse.

Farming is no longer the function of the typical American, nor is it recognizable when compared tit the type of agriculture upon which humans have relied upon for 5,000 years. In the last half of the 20th century agriculture grew into agribusiness and in the last 30 years, into the domain of corporations which have only their financial bottom line in mind. Farmers now must follow the dictates of a handful of corporations. These behemoths determine what crops will be grown and at what price. The farmer really has no choice. Because of the corporate influence on congress, these corporations hold all the cards.

Corporate lobbyists write the Farm Bill which determines Farm policy for the next five years until it is renewed again. The passage of the aspects of the Farm Bill which these lobbyists write are routinely approved by congress. Their approval is assured by campaign contributions and outright bribery. The resulting state of the farm, and farmers is not far off from the relationship between feudal lords and the serfs who farmed their land. The difference exists is that farmers are allowed to own their land but, in terms of choices, that is where the difference ends. The price of corn is kept so low that farmers operate at a loss.

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The Corporate Takeover of American Farming. (2017, Oct 24). Retrieved from

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