Dietary Counseling and Consultations

Alternative Perspective

Rhetoric and Food

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD

For those of us who have lived around agriculture, we know the problems with the modern food system is not with the farm or the volume being produced. The waste, cruelty, and denaturing of our food happens after the farm when it enters the mega-industrial machine of Big Food. Sustainability is a multifaceted process that begins with the soil or a lifestyle; it is the impact of aggressive industrial methods or unhealthy choices, which net a result of food waste and pollution. We do not need more food; it is quite the reverse; what we desperately need is more nutrition.  There is no nutrition in a calorie; it is a measure of heat, energy output. Nutrition is the building blocks for health, growth, repair, cognitive elasticity, and longevity. Without the incorporation in food of vitamins, minerals, co-factors, sugars, enzymes, and amino acids, there would be no life; we cannot live a sustainable life on calories alone.

Just as the faulty use of calories as a measure of food quality is flawed, so is the popular rhetoric on Farmers Feeding the World. We do not need more food produced; we have tons wasted every day, what we need is far simpler, a return to diverse and sustainable practices that do not feed off the empty calories of subsidies and farm policies driven by the multinational food and drug industry. The intention of subsidies was to reduce the risk farmers endure from the weather, commodities brokers, and disruptions in demand. Due to the complexity of subsidies, only large producers can take advantage of them.[1]

There are only five crops subsidized by the federal government; corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice; raised in Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, and Illinois. In 2017, these five states received 38.5% of the $7.2 billion distributed. Producers of meat, fruits, and vegetables can only benefit from crop insurance and disaster relief. Between 1995 and 2017, $369.7 billion was paid out.[2]

According to the USDA, the total US corn crop for 2018-19 was projected at 14 billion bushels. Food, seed, and industrial use was projected to increase 75 million bushels, reaching 7.1 billion; an increase associated with ethanol production.[3], [4] California produces the most food by value; almonds, wine, dairy, walnuts, and pistachios; these crops aren’t subsidized. [5]

Subsidies act like a regressive tax that helps high-income businesses, not rural farmers. Between 1995 and 2017, the top 10% of recipients received 77% of the $205.4 billion. The top 1% received 26% of the payments. That averages out to $1.7 million per company. Fifty people on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans received farm subsidies. On the other hand, 62% of U.S. farms did not receive any subsidies.

Since 2013, America’s farmers and ranchers have weathered a 45 percent drop in net farm income, the largest three-year drop since the start of the Great Depression. This wrongdoing is the result of policies designed to enrich corporations at the expense of farmers and ranchers.[6]

In 1996, Via Campesina coined the phrase food sovereignty. Food sovereignty is defined as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” [7], [8]

When big business leads government down the rosy path, it always results in a loss of freedom for someone. When the media grabs a hold of a marketing slogan like “Farmers Feed the World,” it means we the consumers are being manipulated for the profit of multinational corporations, not farmers.

To locally supported Farmers, Ranchers, and Communities.


[1] Farm Subsidies with Pros, Cons, and Impact;

[2] Commodity subsidies in the United States totaled $7.2 billion in 2017;

[3] WASDE: Corn use for ethanol up in 2018-’19;

[4] Land usage attributed to corn ethanol production in the United States: sensitivity to technological advances in corn grain yield, ethanol conversion, and co-product utilization;

[5] Five Facts You Need to Know About the US Farming Industry;

[6] A Looming Crisis on American Farms by Alicia Harvie;

[7] Feeding the World Intelligently by John Ikerd: Prepared for presentation at the Tennessee Local Food Summit, organized by the Barefoot Farmer, hosted by Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN, December, 1-3, 2017.

[8] American Farmers Say They Feed The World, But Do They? By Dan Charles s3