The USDA’s mission is both to provide leadership on food, nutrition based on public policy and the best available science and also to strengthen and support American agriculture and American farmers. The problem is that promoting and supporting both goals is highly difficult and sometimes conflicting.
According to this article, in addition to its role as feed in animal agriculture, corn is among the seven most federally subsidized foods in the country (including soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, meat, and milk) which account for the majority of calories consumed by Americans. Despite research indicating that consumption of the top seven subsidized foods makes Americans 37 percent more likely to become obese, this year’s crop subsidy of $7 billion is 35 percent higher than the $5.2 billion bailout that the USDA issued in 2015.
To compound the issue, in October 2016, U.S. dairy farmers dumped 43 million gallons of excess milk (the equivalent of 66 Olympic-sized pools.) The farmers dumped the milk in fields and manure lagoons or used it as animal feed in the first eight months of 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This event followed another animal agriculture bailout, where the USDA offered to purchase $20 million worth of cheddar cheese to reduce the cheese surplus, which reached record levels.
In Canada, the Senior Vice President of Maple Leaf Foods asked Health Minister Jane Philpott on behalf of his industry, to pull funding from the WHO (World Health Organization) for listing processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen and red meat as a “probable” cause of cancer.
The similarities to the Tobacco industry’s long-standing denials and blockades of research linking their products to cancer are astounding. While the data continues to point to the overconsumption of animal protein as a source of chronic disease and obesity, the USDA continue to support and finance these industries to keep prices artificially low.