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I'll probably be fooled again - Input Junkie
March 13th, 2010
04:04 pm

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I'll probably be fooled again
In a recent post, I had a chart which showed meat and dairy production getting the vast majority of farm subsidies in the US. This seemed implausible, but commenters and I tried to figure out in what sense it might be true.

jsl32 said in comments that the chart was from a PETA front, and pointed me at FA/RM, which is quite an interesting site, but I wasn't able to find a PETA connection for the chart.

It has about half of subsidies (totaled for 1995-2006) going to corn and wheat.

Wikipedia has it that about a third of farm subsidies in 2004 went to feed grain, and a few percent to dairy.

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From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 13th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)

MV says

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Subsidies for corn and wheat for use as animal feed ARE subsidies for meat.
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From:nancylebov
Date:March 13th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)

Re: MV says

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Certainly, but the chart I'm criticizing looked like about 80% or 90% of subsidies went to meat, and it looks like the truth is closer to 40% or 50%.
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From:dcseain
Date:March 13th, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)

Re: MV says

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But, i think it is reasonable to include grains subsidized for animal feed as a subsidy for meat, just as much as a direct-to-meat-grower subsidy. Together, those subsidies are likely well more than half. Now, is bundling those lying with statistics - i'd say so, with a bent to promoting vegetarianism/veganism.
From:nancylebov
Date:March 13th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)

Re: MV says

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To judge by the stats from FA/RM and from Wikipedia, there isn't a reasonable way to drive the meat/dairy subsidies nearly as high as the chart from the previous post implies.

Part of it is that they used a pyramid, so the volume for the lower region increases faster with height than it would if the chart were a triangle.

Eyeballing the FA/RM stats, and subtracting the non-food subsidies (wood, cotton, not farming, etc.), the meat and dairy still look like a smidge past half.
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From:dcseain
Date:March 13th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
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Does Virginia's minimum retail price for milk qualify as a subsidy?
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From:agrumer
Date:March 13th, 2010 09:37 pm (UTC)
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I haven't been able to find out where that graphic comes from. Which is annoying, especially because it looks like there's an asterisk next to the label "Federal Subsidies for Food Production, 1995-2005", implying that there's a footnote somewhere giving the source for the breakdown, but the footnote isn't in the image.

I managed to trace it as far back as this Ezra Klein blog post from 2007, but Klein just says that the image came to him through email, and gives no further information or context for it.

As I pointed out in the other thread, a list of just farm subsidies probably won't include below-market grazing fees on federal land, which are another subsidy for the meat industry.
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From:nancylebov
Date:March 13th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure where subsidized water for farming fits into this, either.

Thanks for trying to track down the graphic.
From:bruce9999999
Date:March 14th, 2010 03:25 am (UTC)

ethanol complicates it

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http://farm.ewg.org/farm/region.php?fps=00000 says corn gets about a third of all ag subsidies, and 90% plus of corn is feed corn. But- the ethanol boom changed that.

I like meat. When I summon my willpower and eat nothing but meat and fruit and lift a little, I get healthier. I'd worry more about subsidized bread, pasta, sugar. Especially sugar.
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From:nellorat
Date:March 14th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)

Re: ethanol complicates it

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Um, isn't one major use of corn high-fructose corn syrup? And isn't that one reason sugared soda is so cheap? Better they should subsidize sugar.
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From:nancylebov
Date:March 14th, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)

Re: ethanol complicates it

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From what I've heard, there's a price floor for sugar in the US.

This means that it's profitable to raise the price of high-fructose corn syrup to just under the price of sugar, so I guess the sugar price control acts as an indirect subsidy of corn.

Anyway, that's why mass market sodas in the US are sweetened with corn syrup, but you can get a sugar-sweetened Coke at the Mexican grocery.
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From:thnidu
Date:March 14th, 2010 03:30 am (UTC)
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If it can't be traced, don't trust it.
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From:nancylebov
Date:March 14th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
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Especially since it doesn't match other sources of information.

Still, I'd like to know where it did come from.
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