151587 Agricultural policy and subsidy distribution: Nutrition and public health implications

Tuesday, November 6, 2007: 2:30 PM

Hope Ferdowsian, MD, MPH , Washington Center for Clinical Research, Washington, DC
Kyle Ash, MA, LLM , Global Warming Program, Greenpeace, Washington, DC
Background: Federal nutrition policies demonstrate significant contradictions within and between federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture. Despite a public health commitment to combat overweight and related chronic diseases, agricultural policy presents the potential to displace nutrition promotion through price supports and direct payments to designated agricultural producers. The degree to which agricultural policy promotes unhealthy foods is quantifiable through the Farm Bill subsidies and commodities programs. Methods: The total proportion of subsidies supporting various products, including animal products, grains, sugar, starch, alcohol, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and fruits, was estimated. Analysis was performed using statistics on crop-feed ratios and international trade compiled by industry, government, and non-governmental organizations. Results: Approximately 73% of over $60 billion in federal commodities payments between 1996 and 2004 supported the production of meat, eggs, and dairy, either directly or indirectly through feed crop supports. This total excludes $12 billion in disaster payments and Environmental Quality Incentives Program payments, the vast majority of which went to animal farming. Less than half of 1% of federal subsidies was allocated to fruits and vegetables. Discussion: Federal agricultural policy largely promotes animal products, foods high in fat and cholesterol, despite the emphasis of Dietary Guidelines for Americans on plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. Considering the public health mandate to reduce health disparities, this dichotomy is particularly relevant to populations reliant on federal food assistance programs. Opportunities to adjust agricultural policy to reflect federal nutrition guidelines and public health initiatives include modifications to the Farm Bill and federal nutrition assistance programs.

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize the importance of agricultural policy to nutrition promotion. 2. Discuss subsidy distribution and how it affects health outcomes. 3. Develop policy solutions that address the significance of agricultural policy in health promotion and disease prevention.

Keywords: Nutrition, Public Health Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.