Written by Fatoumata Issifi Hidjo
Would you go into a fast food restaurant to order a hamburger if you knew it would cost you over $50? Would you order steak in a fancy restaurant if you knew it was going to cost you over $200? In truth that’s already what you are paying. When is the price you pay not the price you pay? When the government helps to foot the bill.
The U.S. government subsidizes the beef industry. The government subsidies are for corn to feed the animals and water and land for them to graze on. If the beef industry had to pay fair market value for these resources, a Happy Meal would turn into an Unhappy Meal very quickly. Those subsidies are funded by taxes collected from the American taxpayer – that’s you and me. And it doesn’t matter whether you are vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian (those who eat fish, but no other meats) or belong to any sect, creed, religion or faith that prevents eating certain kinds of meat, you are not exempt: if you live in the U.S and pay taxes here, you’re paying for that big, juicy, $50 Big Mac along with the rest of us.
Sixty three percent of the U.S. government food subsidies go directly or indirectly to subsidize the meat and dairy industries. Less than 1 percent goes to fruit and vegetable cultivation. Less than 2 percent goes to nut and legume cultivation. Stopping meat subsidies would raise meat prices dramatically. If I cannot afford meat I will not buy meat; However, I could buy fruits and vegetables if the decreased governmental subsidy for meat is used to subsidize fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Shifting subsidies will help provide healthy and affordable diet choices for all Americans.
America needs to reallocate its food subsides. Now that America is struggling to provide health care for its disadvantaged populations, it is time to focus on the cause of health problems. Poor diet causes problems such as hypertension, heart disease and, most alarmingly, the high rate of obesity and type two diabetes that is increasingly affecting our youth. The better our diet, the healthier we are and the less we will desperately need that health care. Shifting our food subsidies will help ourselves and the environment, and help to safeguard the health and future of the next generation of Americans.
In this tough economy people buy the food they can afford instead of making healthy and environmentally sound choices. In a country like the U.S., healthy foods should not be a luxury. Our tax money should not be used to harm us. If the subsidies to the beef industry were ever cut so that we would get a more accurate sense of what things should cost, we would see Ronald McDonald would go out of business or quickly be replaced by Ronald McHealthy.
Be involved – don’t let your taxes work against your well-being. Let your senator know that you sent them to D.C. to look after you, and that they should support only farm subsidies that increase the well-being of America.
Fatoumata Issifi Hidjo is a Junior in the USM honors program.