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How the USDA Can Make or Break Public Health

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our All About Organics page.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was formed in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln. It is responsible for developing and executing federal policies relating to farming, agriculture, forestry, and food.

Since its inception, the USDA has been granted powers by both Congress and presidential executive orders that, progressively and collectively, have made it the policy-setter for both agricultural policies and nutritional guidelines.

This is an obvious and serious conflict of interest that has led to an epidemic of chronic disease. It's also why federal guidelines relating to diet are so grossly divergent from nutritional science.

Historically, USDA policies have been heavily-and in some instances, exclusively-influenced by pesticide producers and the junk food industry, and for the last 100 years, its nutrition "guidelines" have been a direct result of an effort to boost farm economics.

In short, federal dietary recommendations have very little to do with actual nutrition science, and everything to do with promoting foods that serve the junk food industry's bottom line, not the public health.

Through its power to set and enforce both agricultural policy and dietary standards, the USDA has much to answer for when it comes to the current state of health of Americans...       

Nutrition Guidelines Set to Boost Junk Food Economics, Not to Promote Health

Ever since 1933, every five to seven years the US Congress passes a set of legislative acts commonly referred to as "the Farm Bill," which includes agricultural subsidies to growers of certain types of food.

These subsidies are in large part responsible for promoting and worsening the US obesity epidemic-a fact highlighted in a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.1 According to the authors, the root of the problem is that:

"Government-issued payments have skewed agricultural markets toward the overproduction of commodities that are the basic ingredients of processed, energy-dense foods."

This includes corn, soybeans, wheat and rice, which are the top four most heavily subsidized foods.