Fat fighters complain that agricultural subsidies encourage Americans to overeat by making junk food ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil artificially cheap. "Meanwhile," notes The New York Times, "the lack of subsidies for fruits and vegetables makes them expensive by comparison." The obvious solution: more subsidies. "Some of the bills before Congress," the Times reports, "are aimed at helping growers of fruits and vegetables" by providing money for cultivation research and promoting farmers' markets, among other things.
How about leveling the playing field by eliminating subsidies? The prospects are not bright. There's wide agreement that "fixed direct payments," which farmers receive based on what they've grown in the past, even if they're growing nothing now, make little sense:
"You don't have to sit on a tractor seat, visit the tractor seat, you don't even have to be alive to get a fixed payment," said [Ken] Cook of the Environmental Working Group. "We have fixed payments to dead people all over the place. It's ridiculous."
Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers Union, the second largest organization for farmers in the country, said, "It is hard to defend direct payments."
But the proposed changes to the broader system of subsidies betray a lack of vision:
The Bush administration...wants to eliminate subsidy payments for farmers who have an adjusted gross income of more than $200,000 a year. And some in Congress want to limit subsidies entirely. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has supported limits on subsidies in the past and some Congressional bills would prohibit any farmer from getting more than $200,000 a year in subsidies.
So the most radical suggestion is to "limit subsidies entirely"? It has almost the right sound to it.