As the Senate prepares to vote on a new farm bill, one thing is clear — we have way too many “farm bill experts” weighing in.
As reported in an October article by Rob Hotakainen with McClatchy Newspapers, “many physicians as well as the American Medical Association want Congress to stop subsidizing the production of foods that are high in fat and cholesterol and spend more to promote fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains that are not.”
Personally, I think physicians have about as much business consulting on a farm bill as I do performing an appendectomy, but I looked through the current farm bill anyway for a subsidy category called “high-fat, high-cholesterol foods.”
I couldn’t find one, of course, but I really didn’t expect to. What physicians are saying is that the current farm bill is at the core of America’s obesity epidemic.
The physicians aren’t only barking up the wrong tree here, they’re in the wrong yard barking up the wrong tree. American farmers have been supplying a healthy, safe supply of food and fiber to American citizens since long before the obesity epidemic began.
Whether or not a grain of corn or the animal it feeds ultimately contributes to a person’s better health will occur long after the grain or the animal has left the farmgate — to when it’s prepared and placed on someone’s dinner plate.
Surely doctors know that grain-fed chickens can end up as either healthy, baked, chicken breasts, with the fat trimmed, or inside a heart-stopping bucket of extra-crispy — skin-on.
Physicians may argue that farm subsidies make high fat and cholesterol food more affordable than what they are calling non-subsidized healthy alternatives. But another conveniently overlooked fact is that vegetable and fruit farmers produce things that can make us fat too.
For example, an unadorned baked potato is a great energy source, has no cholesterol and contains less than a gram of fat.
That same potato can be processed into french fries with zero milligrams of cholesterol and 13.1 grams of fat, or into mashed potatoes with 23 milligrams of cholesterol and 9 grams of fat.
I understand that doctors are desperate to curb America’s runaway appetite. But America’s obesity problem is much more insidious than what would be accomplished by reducing subsidy programs for some crops and creating new ones for others. Many Americans are simply addicted to high-fat and high-cholesterol diets, and don’t exercise nearly enough.
Upon hearing the doctors’ position, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, replied. “I agree that obesity and health are serious issues in America today. However, blaming the cause on the crops that we grow in Kansas and/or the U.S. farm program is overlooking the personal responsibility we all have in our daily lives and diets.”
Thank you, Senator. It’s up to our nation’s food preparers, be they restaurants or a moms, to provide healthy combinations of foods, and it’s up to each individual to eat and drink responsibly. And during visits, doctors should take five minutes to encourage their patients to practice healthy eating — if they haven’t overbooked, that is.