Needlessly Pitting Kids Against Conservation
By Craig Cox, EWG Senior Vice-President
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) today (March 17) unveiled legislation to reauthorize child nutrition programs and increase nutrition funding by $4.5 billion over 10 years. Of the total, $1.2 billion would increase the number of children who receive food and $3.2 billion would go toward delivering higher quality meals intended to fight childhood obesity.
Senator Lincoln’s proposal is an impressive move toward breaking the cycle of obesity that plagues America’s children. Unfortunately, however, it wrongly pits kids against conservation. In a critical miscalculation, she would cap the amount of money spent on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to pay for the nutrition increase. EQIP, a program chronically underfunded and repeatedly targeted for cuts, helps ensure cleaner water, soil and air for the children in rural communities.
The senator would be much smarter to look to the bloated farm subsidy program.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, average farm income is well above US household income. Despite this, Lincoln declined to make even small cuts in the lavish commodity subsidy program that could have easily paid for her nutrition initiative.
A meager 5% cut in subsidies to just the top 10% of recipients -- the largest operations that received an average of $48,000 in 2009 -- would equal the proposed cuts to EQIP.
The taxpayer-funded commodity subsidies benefit the largest and wealthiest growers of corn, cotton, rice, wheat and soybeans. In addition to ensuring profits for the biggest farm businesses, these subsidies also dump a glut of unhealthy calories on the market, enabling food manufacturers to cheaply produce the very products that feed the obesity epidemic.