Posts Tagged ‘agricultural subsidies’

Another Way to Reduce the Cost of Healthcare

May 30, 2017
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Locally grown produce on sale at Uptown Market in downtown Columbus, GA, Saturday, May 27, 2017.

It’s no secret that the cost of healthcare in the United States is highest in the world, but  overall quality is low among developed nations. The United States ranks 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization.  As you probably know,  just about all of the developed countries in the world but the United States have universal healthcare.  Certainly the top ten do. While the debate on whether to go single-payer or continue for-profit is important, there is another way to drastically reduce healthcare costs that gets very little attention.  Poor diet reportedly is a major contributor to the cost of healthcare in the United States.

This was graphically pointed out by a Harris County farmer at a Wednesday night group discussion at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, Georgia.  He provided some very interesting information from the Sustainable Food Trust. (Click on that link and you can read the report on The True Cost of Food Conference that was held in San Francisco.)

The report tells us the following:

Diseases related to poor diets in the United States account for 86% of healthcare spending.

Obesity annually costs taxpayers $2 trillion in healthcare spending.

About $5 billion is spent on  reactions to food dye.

877 million pounds of pesticides are used each year by industrial agriculture.

Americans spend about 6 percent of their annual income on food now as opposed to 16 percent in 1960. European countries spend 9-15 percent.

The U.S. government annually spends $20 billion taxpayer money on agricultural subsidies.   That  keeps primary crop prices low, which keeps food prices low.

The Government spends $153 billion annually on assistance programs to low-income earners, $75 billion of that in food stamps.

The market favors producing food on an industrial, unsustainable scale. “Sustainability,” in this context, means providing for the current generation without inhibiting the ability of future generations to provide for themselves.

So, the real cost of food is much more than the money you pay for it at the supermarket. For instance, your taxes pay for the $20 billion agricultural subsidies.

Just think about the social costs and dollar costs of  things like rising healthcare costs, air pollution, water pollution, climate change,  illegal immigration, allergens, and others.

So that’s what some believe is the problem. How about solutions. Our Harris County farmer listed these:

— Reward environmentally responsible food production.

— Use money from government subsidies, crop insurance, and food stamps to make sustainable food more available and accessible to the public.

— Raise taxes on artificial-chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

— Create healthcare incentives and encouragement to eat healthy food.

— Create investments in local, sustainable businesses.

— Pay agriculture employees better wages and improve working conditions.

You have to admit, cliché warning, that’s certainly food for thought.  One thought I have is that there needs to be a national educational program to inform the public about the benefits of following a healthy diet.

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One of the stands featuring locally grown produce at the Uptown Market on Broadway in downtown Columbus. The market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.