Healthcare! The topic of interest on the tip of everybody’s tongues

(Polizeros welcome our new contributor, Will O’ The Wisp)

Well, maybe on the tips of the tongues of those well-heeled, health-insured politicians. On the tips of the tongues of those whom health care reform is meant to assist? Food! Water! Shelter! Bills! Let’s go back to that first subject – Food. I admit, my friends, I have yet to read the full 2000-plus pages of the health care reform bill (But then, why should I be the first to read it?) but I am reasonably confident that there is not a discussion of food in it. Not in the availability sense, but rather in regards to how it should be consumed, and more importantly, subsidized.

There has been research (reach out to me if you want backup) that directly points back to our diet as the major factor in increased incidences of cancer, thyroid problems, diabetes, and other life threatening conditions. You, my friends, may know this already, but do you really think about all the chemicals and preservatives you consume with every bite of fast food and processed food that you take? If chemicals are used to preserve food, what do you think it does to your organs? And how does it effect your body function? And more importantly, why is the first response to illness or conditions such as acne to prescribe drugs? More chemicals? Is it possible that altering our diets to include more natural and organic foods could solve a majority of our problems? It is, my friends, it is.

But here’s the rub: The health care industry doesn’t want to promote those solutions because it hurts their bottom line, the whole health care ecosystem. Furthermore, it “hurts” our agricultural system, as it exists now.

Look at the graph. You see all those subsidies for corn? That would be for the corn that makes the corn syrup in all of the least-healthy foods we eat. And the corn that feeds the cows on the antibiotics that we eat. And the chickens and the pigs too. The corn is cheap, because of the subsidies, which makes the animals cheap, which makes our fast and packaged and processed foods cheap”¦and our fruits and vegetables and nuts relatively expensive. Which, in turn, means we eat fewer fruits and vegetables, experience a range of health problems ranging from cancer to obesity, and continue to drive up health care costs that are bankrupting the country, and encouraging more government intervention, because, well, no one just wants to take the initiative, personal responsibility, and eat more healthy.

Food subsidies from the government are a problem. But isn’t this what they wanted? What they bargained for? They create a problem so they can offer a solution. Each solution creates more problem. Stand up, my friends. Make your choice.


  1. The biggest subsidies by far are for corn, with wheat and cotton next, and soy and rice a distant 4th and 5th. Direct dairy and livestock rank 9th and 10th, and together amount to about 1/20 of corn subsidies.

    Where does all that corn go? Most of it becomes high fructose corn syrup, just as most soy becomes hydrogenated oil. The waste of both often becomes food for animals in CAFOs.

    I don’t know what the price of feed for factory farmers is, but I can tell you that the price of a 50 pound bag doubled two years ago, and has yet to come back down even though corn itself is a fraction of its price then. That’s no indication that factory farmers pay the same price. Subsidies rarely help the small farm. Instead, they help the industrial food producer compete better against us, pushing locally-grown food of greater variety out of the way in favor less healthy food from mono-crops.

    Our response for winter feed: cut out corn-based feed, and use locally grown hay instead. (We do use corn-based feed as a treat for the milking does because they love it, but the volume of that is small.) And yes, we seek out hay that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.

    In the summer, our goats browse on whatever grows nearby– it doesn’t get any more natural than that.

    The conclusion: know your farmer, know your food. Many local farmers use less or no pesticides or herbicides. They may not be certified organic, because that costs money. But they often incorporate sustainable practices into their operations.

    • Also, a recent study shows that weight gain is much faster with high fructose corn syrup than sugar. Evil stuff, apparently.

      Sue is highly intolerant of corn and corn syrup. It’ll give her headaches, even in tiny amounts. So we read lots of labels. Corn syrup (this includes maltodextrine and sorbitol) is in *everything*, including vitamins and medications.

      Are we eating food or just processed chemicals? Rather than fix the food that may be causing problems, instead, they just give you a pill.

    • > But isn’t this what they wanted? What they bargained for?

      Yes, of course it is. We want you confused, servile, and dependent. Thank for asking. Now stop questioning.

    • Heard of a case where someone was taking two meds, one for blood pressure, another for joint pain. The joint pain meds did lessen the pain but increased blood pressure. The blood pressure meds had side effect of increasing joint pain.

      The patient was the one who figured it out, after researching it. The meds were expensive too. The MD advised breaking one in half. Ah. no. Because it clearly says the pill be taken as whole as breaking it can hurt stomach.

      The patient finally said this is ridiculous, stopped taking both. And felt better. Then found a generic for blood pressure that was 10 cents not $3 a pill.

      Apparently we too often are just income streams for MDs and drug companies. Root causes for problems seem increasingly ignore. Just take a pill.

      Interestingly, when I got stung by Harvester ants last week, and the welts hurt some and itched, I discovered that Aloe Vera gel worked better than hydrocortisone.

  2. The economics of dairy farming have always interested me, leading as they do savage treatment of animals and farmer alike, with the animals bearing the brunt of the cruelty. (Just one example: the average cow has a decent milk-production life of at least 10 years — but in large-scale dairy operations is sent to slaughter at 4 or 5 years old, because she is past her “peak”.)

    Producing methane from manure seems to hold promise of extra income for farmers and a reduction of the environmental degredation that goes along with dairy farming — but it requires a large capital investment, with a huge number of cows needed to break even from the refining process.

    As Gene Logsdon says in “Turning Farmers Into Robots”, in this month’s issue of Farming Magazine:

    “The economics ruling agriculture are destructive and unsustainable and more people must stand up and say so or soon there will be no more real farmers left but just a bunch of puppets doing whatever they must do to get their subsidies, which they then must turn right around and give to their suppliers who are the real beneficiaries of all this largess. …

    “The most telling evidence of the desperateness of the situation is that the government has forked over another $350 million to persuade dairymen to send cows to market, hoping to boost milk prices that way. How many times has this been tried? The only result is to drive down meat prices as all those cows go to slaughter. When is someone in the Department of Agriculture or in our Colleges of Agriculture going to say it: No matter how much money you have when you start buying land, or cows, or snazzy new technology, you can’t make a go of dairying anymore (if anyone ever could) under the mantra that increasing size increases net income. There’s a limit to that and we have reached it. Milk prices have quadrupled since I was milking and the price still can’t keep up with costs. …

    “Farmers who believe that the economy of scale requires constant expansion have become little more than guinea pigs for every so-called money-saving, labor-saving, energy-saving, hot-shot idea that comes along. They are becoming the robots of the Monsanta Clauses. …

    “All of large-scale agriculture is pricing itself out of the food market. An up-to-date, 5000-acre corn and soybean farm needs a corn price of around $3.86 a bushel to break even right now, Illinois economists say. Others say $4.00 is more like it. Yet anyone with 40 acres of land, and it need not be an Amish farmer either, can plant it to corn and net at least $2.00 a bushel at a four-dollar selling price, using hand, horse, or small tractor power. At 150 bushels per acre, he or she could net $12,000 on their labor on that forty acres—a tidy little income for spare-time work especially in these times of serious unemployment. Do farm suppliers believe that smart young people aren’t going to figure that out and start doing it? Some already are. Maybe the big seed companies realize that this is the real future and that’s why they are trying to patent all the seed germ plasm in the world.”

    • Vermont had more cows than people until the mid-1960’s. Now virtually all the family dairy farms are gone. They sold their cows to bigger dairy operations in Vermont that aren’t near ski areas. Think about it. Why be a dairy farmer if your farm is near a ski area. You could probably make more selling the land to developers.

      I wonder if the milk is as good as when it came from family dairy farm.

    • Another alternative to the manure problem is composting (instead of slurrying), which doesn’t produce methane. But that’s typically practical on smaller farms.

      BTW, if you’ve noticed, despite falling prices for milk on the farm, milk at the grocery store still costs about the same. I wonder why that is…

      As for treatment of animals, we are currently deciding what to do about a baby goat’s severe cleft palate. We discussed reconstructive surgery. The USDA expert said, “That’s not usually economical for livestock.” My response: “We don’t make our decisions on economics alone.”

      It turns out her case is too severe for surgery to be a worthwhile risk. (The risk of the surgery killing her outweighs the likelihood that it will improve her life.) But if it was an option, I would feel a moral obligation to consider it. When you have a bond with your animals, they’re not just capital assets.

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