I was a Democrat in my 20s, a Republican in my 30s. Now that I’ve hit 40, I’ve almost fallen over the Libertarian cliff. I think becoming a farmer had something to do with it. I just really don’t want government to tell me what to do. Part of me loves the idea of a tax on sugary beverages and Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on Super-Sized-Sodas. I agree that these sugar filled beverages, among other processed food, are at the core of the obesity epidemic that is leading to millions of dollars in unnecessary healthcare and federal tax dollar spending. I’m just not sure I want government to tell people not to drink soda. Especially because there’s a better way to limit people’s consumption of sugary beverages: and that is to eliminate farm subsidies and incentivize smaller family farms around the country that can make fresh food available to all people.
The invention of high fructose corn syrup (HFC) brought with it the downfall of American eating habits. All of a sudden, it became very easy to make EVERYTHING sweet. In nature, sweet is a luxury saved for perfectly ripe berries in the spring and fruits in the summer. Most natural sweet comes in mild forms: sweet corn, sugar pumpkins, sugar snap peas. Even maple syrup doesn’t come to us from nature in its highly concentrated form. We don’t get this huge blast of sweet from anything in nature the way we do from HFC. And that huge blast is what gets our bodies hooked. We are wired to indulge in sweet because it IS so rare in nature.
Our problem is not that we don’t have enough food – Big Ag is pumping out more food off of less land than it ever has in history thanks in part to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and feed-lot-raised animals. But fresh food is not in the right places. The only bummer about fresh food (food that is grown, not packaged) is that is has a very short shelf life. This means people need access to it often (compare the shelf life of a peach to a Twinkie). In reality, Americans want their right to choose, and not have our food chosen for us. But subsidizing big Ag ventures such as commodity corn and soybeans, the government is choosing processed foods for its citizens, especially those located in so-called “food deserts”. So take yer hands off my Big Gulp Mr. Mayor, but tell your colleagues in Washington to stop bowing to the status quo and start helping out rural, neighborhood, and inner-city farms.