A Simpler Way To Reduce Corn Production

A 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 they're right.

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 goals.

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