Taxing America’s Health: Subsidies for Meat and Dairy Products
As Americans filed their taxes in April, PCRM launched a new campaign against the government’s spending of billions of those taxpayer dollars on subsidies that support the production of unhealthy meat and dairy products.
The campaign was launched in conjunction with the release of a new PCRM report that exposes conflicts between what the U.S. government recommends people eat and what foods are boosted by federal dollars in the form of agricultural subsidies.
National dietary guidelines advise consumers to cut meat and dairy consumption and increase their intake of fruit and vegetables. But more than 60 percent of agricultural subsidies have directly or indirectly supported meat and dairy production, while less than one percent benefit fruit and vegetable producers.
PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., sent a letter highlighting this discrepancy to the chairs of the House and Senate agriculture committees in Congress. He also asked them to consider critical reforms to agricultural policy that will save money and reverse epidemics of chronic disease.
“As a physician, I urge you to shut down federal programs that pump billions of dollars into direct and indirect subsidies for meat, sugar, and other unhealthy products that are feeding record levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health problems that kill and disable millions of Americans every year,” wrote Dr. Barnard. “Most taxpayers have no idea that they subsidize unhealthy foods, but the disturbing facts are laid out in a new chart produced by our organization that accompanies this letter.”
The country’s unprecedented rates of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes are linked to diets high in fat and cholesterol found in meat and dairy products, and the cost to individuals and taxpayers is enormous. The Medicare and Medicaid spending for obesity-related conditions—which are largely preventable—now totals $61 billion per year. By 2030, the annual medical costs for cardiovascular disease alone are projected to triple to $818 billion.