recent report claims that corn production "causes 4300 premature
deaths" each year. The report appears to be some sort of propaganda effort
by ecological conservationists, aimed at reducing the use of certain chemical
fertilizers, pesticides, and things of that nature.
I choose not to take
a position on the environmental issue, except to say that I am skeptical of
researchers' ability to pin 4300 deaths per year on the growing of a crop.
After all, if farmers weren't growing corn, they'd be growing something else,
presumably something with similar fertilizer and pesticide needs. But, perhaps
At any rate, reports
like this won't change the course of American agriculture. What would really
help reduce corn production, and free up valuable agricultural resources for
better products, maybe even products with a lower adverse environmental impact,
would be to reduce or eliminate corn subsidies. Subsidies provide incentives to
producers to make the good in question; eliminating those incentives means
producers will make less of it.
Perhaps the people
who commissioned the report, whoever they are, should simply start making the
case for eliminating the corn subsidy. Corn prices would fall, and that would
lower food costs, which are disproportionately onerous for the poor. So, not only
would eliminating these subsidies lower all food prices, it would also help the
poor. It would also reduce the prevalence of corn syrup -- and therefore
high-fructose corn syrup -- in the American food supply, which would improve
health outcomes on a national scale. It's also the fiscally responsible thing
to do, since ending corn subsidies would relieve the US government of millions
of dollars in outlays and reduce the budget deficit. If paired with a
liberalization of trade policy, food prices would fall even further without
impacting corn supply in the country whatsoever.
Ending the corn
subsidy simply makes sense, from all sides. I think the authors of this report
ought to have spent their time attacking the subsidy directly to achieve their