crossposted from A Little California Dog
It’s not often I read something that makes me so angry that I just have to bring myself to write about it, usually I reserve that for the magical California budget. But there was so much wrong with the thinking in this article that I’m still spitting two days after reading it, and watching normally bright folks swallow it whole!
But somebody didn’t bother to check his facts! Now apparently this lawyer practices Agricultural Law…
I tend to stay away from policy on this blog, but Bloomberg’s soda ban perfectly crystalizes the absurdities of our food system. We pay farmers to overproduce the raw materials for our sweets, then we tax consumers to discourage them from eating it. The way I see it, when a state or city passes a Happy Meal toy ban or a soda tax, it is a repudiation of national agricultural policy.
Unfortunately he apparently doesn’t seem to realize what a “subsidy” is on ANY of the crops he’s complaining about. Or that many of the programs are specifically designed to prevent “over production” or cover losses when crops are destroyed, or the market price collapses.
Sugar cane production in this country is almost non-existent, it’s only grown in Hawaii, Florida, and Louisiana (total receipts in 2006-07 were $897 Mil, not even 1/2 of 1% of total crop values for that year). It doesn’t even register in the top 25 crops that have received subsidies since 1995…
Sugar Beets have not received any subsidies to farmers since 2005, and place 20th on the top 25 list for the years 1995-2010 (Sugar Beets are the other, bigger half of that 1% by the way…)
|Graphic from 2011 Farm Subsidy database|
In fact tariffs charged on non-domestic sugar made from cane sugar and sugar beets have caused Americans to spend twice the world price for these sugars. So tariffs are keeping our prices higher than they should be.
Unlike other crop initiatives that send farmers payments, the sugar program keeps prices high primarily by limiting imports, harming consumers and companies, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the sponsor of the amendment, said yesterday on the Senate floor. “This outdated program puts American companies at a competitive disadvantage, and it should go,” the New Hampshire Democrat said.
Tariffs, not subsidies… You’d think an Agricultural Law lawyer would know that “little” distinction. And yeah, our Congress is so dumb they are keeping the import tariffs.
Tariffs… that keep prices higher for consumers. Yet this fellow thinks that is why local governments should be justified in banning sodas, Happy Meals and who knows what else because it make sugar too cheap??
Sorghum is also a form of sugar that gets “subsidies”, but it is not generally used for human food, it’s generally used in animal feeds. So I can’t think of what stretch this lawyer imagines makes it’s too cheap and justifies the food nannies of the world…After all they want to ban Happy Meals because they come with a toy, not because 3 year olds won’t eat salad…or cattle feed.
The dark blue lines (if the graphic are too small to see) are for Market Loss Assistance, in other words the market price was lower than what it cost to produce the crop.
Which brings us to what he’s really bitching about, Corn Syrup! First you should ask yourself why High Fructose Corn Syrup would be cheaper than any other sugar. It couldn’t have anything to do with the subsidies that go to ethanol producers? Not to the corn farmers, btw. Though the ethanol producers are supposed to pay farmers more for their corn,but they’re not paying for what they’re not buying (see where this is going?) Why yes that could have something to do with HFCS being cheaper, not corn prices being higher!
Feed corn (coarse grains) prices for the US as of Jun 12, 2012 ~
Projected corn ending stocks for 2011/12 are unchanged, as is the 2011/12 season average farm price which remains at $5.95 to $6.25 per bushel.
Now this is field corn which is pretty unedible for Americans in particular, but this is the corn used for ethanol, and cattle feed for the most part. But farmers are growing it instead of sweet corn or other food products. So what do you think happens to the price of those products that aren’t being grown? And what happens to the corn that isn’t being turned into Ethanol? Ethanol is a terrible waste of an animal feed product, a human food product, is an inefficient fuel product, has caused food prices all over the world to rise, and since demand hasn’t matched supplies the by-product is cheap corn syrup that isn’t getting used to make ethanol. Because it is liquid it is easier and cheaper to transport than cane or beet sugar which is generally moved in a crystal form. Because of tariffs, where the government is collecting the money, not the farmer, on the other types of sugar, corn syrup is the cheaper sugar. Of course producers of products that use sugar are going to use corn syrup. It sweetens just the same
So what, you say? Isn’t HFCS bad for you or as a very smart friend said tonight, “it isn’t a real sugar”. Head Desk!, Head Desk!, Head Desk!…GRRR!! So without making this post 14 times longer and so technical that I lose all of my 3 readers…the short answer is emphatically NO!!
That “F” in HFCS is FRUCTOSE ~ High FRUCTOSE Corn Syrup. The very same sugar found in all fruit, all vegetables, and all plant life. Period, no exceptions. HFCS is called that not because it is pure fructose,or even “high” in fructose, but to distinguish it from regular cooking corn syrup which is glucose (that’s Karo to you folks from the South, like you’d use in a Pecan Pie). HFCS is equal parts of fructose and glucose. Cane and Beet sugars are processed down for human consumption to Sucrose, that then breaks down in the body to fructose and glucose, in surprisingly the same percentages as is found in HFCS (fancy that!). They are all sugars, just different types. And guess what? Even the American Medical Associations says there is no problem and no difference with those scarey letters!
One. More. Time. Sugar is Sugar is Sugar
Everything you eat has got to be broken down into a sugar for your body to use it. Every fat, every carbohydrate, every starch, even fiber has to be turned into a sugar for your body to use it’s energy. Fructose is sugar, a real sugar…same calories and everything!
So although a soda has an awful lot of sugar, it isn’t going to be broken down by your body any differently than any other kind of sugar. And guess what? Because sucrose (beet and cane sugar) is unstable in acid (like a soda) it breaks down to be identical to HFCS…
Sugar is Sugar is Sugar.
End of sugar rant. Grr!
Corn subsidies. Yep, they exist, and ethanol has made them worse. But there is a reason corn is not only the top subsidy receiver, but the number one agricultural product grown in the US with well over 72 million acres grown every year. It is not just an animal feed; or a human food, that gains more and more importance the poorer the country(the US produced 42% of the world’s corn in 2005); or mis-guidedly used for ethanol, but is also used to make oil for frying, alcohol fuel for cooking and 90% of the starch for food and industrial uses in the US. Over 30% of the corn grown in the US is used as animal feed(to grow those Happy Meals the food police hate!)
So what is wrong with this fellow’s using “sugar” subsidies as a rationale for Nanny Bloomberg? Plenty.
There is NO rational reason to ban either Happy Meals for their toys, or the soda you want to drink. Nobody who isn’t paying your bills has any right at all to tell you what food you can eat or not. And once again…sugar is sugar is sugar! There is no nutritional reason to ban sugar, and HFCS is just another sugar. Cheaper maybe because of dumb government policy, and because it is easier to transport and use in other products, and is more stable to use in those products. BUT there is no moral reason to ban cheap food, the cheaper the food prices the better it is for the whole world. So why invent some dumb theory that farmers over produce and that gives the Food Police some right to tax it? The two items have no earthly connection, unless you just want to invent excuses for control freaks.
Do farmers over produce so the Food Police can tell you what you should be allowed to eat? I don’t think they have any right to tell you what you can eat under some misguided idea that cheap food is bad, and we shouldn’t be growing it. In the first place the US is one of the largest exporters of food, if we under produce that means world food prices rise accordingly. That is NOT a good thing, unless you believe in world population control by starving Third World Countries. Exporting is both good for our farmers AND the Third World(& the other developed countries too btw) Cheap food is a moral good.
Do farmers over produce so as to make more money? Not hardly, more of anything drives the price down. I live in wine country, and there is nothing sadder than seeing a grown man cry because all of his work for the past year has gone down the tubes because it will cost more to pick his grapes than they are worth because for once the climate was “perfect” and they had a overly large production! Can’t even give them away, as wine grapes just aren’t “eating” grapes, hundreds of acres of grapes left to rot on the vine. And the dollar loss to that farmer is astronomical! Even crop insurance only covers a part of it.
Or the dairy farmers whose feed costs meant they were only getting half of what it cost to get their milk to market. All that means is that they will have to get rid of every extraneous animal they can(and maybe a few more!), which in turn means meat prices might be lower in the short term, but will boomerang soon after when there aren’t enough cattle coming to market. And what does less production of milk do to the milk market? It may mean the farmer gets a better price for his product, but the milk buying public suffers from higher prices in the long run. Over produce? Hardly, even multi-million dollar farms have to watch every dollar, they are not going to deliberately cause the market price of their product bottom out.
Do farmers over produce? No, they don’t, and subsidies are not to make them over produce either. But that was the take away from at least one reader of that ridiculous post.
Is there a reason HFCS is cheaper than it could be, or cheaper than other sugars? Yep! It’s cheaper because of misguided Ethanol usage of corn, leaving extra corn syrup to be sold to food processors, and because other sugars are kept unnaturally high…
You’re going to have to find a different rationale (I use the word loosely, as there is nothing rational about the Food Police) than the non-existent over-production of a necessary food source to justify telling folks to eat their broccoli (Hey! Guess what?? It has fructose too!) And folks like Bloomberg don’t really care what kind of sugar is in a soda, or if the ingredients are “cheap” or not. They just think they have some divine right to tell others what to do. Guess what? Bloomberg is wrong. Period.
Yep! That lawyer should stay away from “policy”, but then again what he seems to see as repudiation, I see as making lame excuses for bad “policy”.