Dining with a Dime

Written by Nick Olson, ESLLC 2016-2017

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I’m not sure if I’m supposed to keep political affiliation secret or not in these- but I think it’s fair to assume that since I’ve brought it up there’s something that’s managed to piss me off. I’m sure all those who are reading have heard of the proposed budget cuts for certain federal agencies that have done absolutely nothing for us. Some of these agencies include: The Environmental Protection agency (EPA) (responsible for protecting human health through environmental management), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (working to ensure safe food, natural resources, and provide for the poor), and the Department of Labor (DOL) (in charge of working conditions/safety, wage standards, and (un)employment benefits). Because these agencies are deeply intertwined within the distribution, safety, and volume of food within the United States, this plan could unhinge the fragile balance of our already mediocre food system.

The foods currently subsidized by the government are those easily engineered to weasel their way into unhealthy snack foods. They have been found to contain high amounts of dairy, carbs, and cheap meat, while skimping on fruit, vegetables, and, of course, quality. Examples of these subsidies include corn, soybeans, and wheat, which are notorious for being heavily processed into sweeteners, or feeds for livestock. They’re then put on the shelves in supermarkets in the form of high fructose corn syrup, oils, and starches. These cheap foods are most easily accessible to those who cannot afford higher quality ingredients, and therefore, nutrition. And this system already at play is up to take further hits with the budget outline.

Now, back to the policy. These industries play a vital role in the quality and safety of food within the United States. If they are defunded as they are proposed to be (31% to the EPA, 21% to USDA and DOL), several regulations that keep us safe could fall through. For example, pesticide regulations and research would decrease from the EPA. With an already secretive business running rampant in a majority of our crops, would minimizing the ability to know what’s in our food (and how it affects us) really be a productive decision? Cuts to the USDA would make it increasingly more difficult for farmers to make the demanding switch to organic crops, and instead force them to rely on pesticides, GMO’s, and the monopolizing corporations behind them. Also, defunding DOL would allow business owners to be less accountable for the safety and treatment of their workers. This could lead to unfair wages, mistreatment, and dangerous working conditions for those who are unable to find better jobs. These are just three of the agencies affected by the plan.

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The problem with this suggested “budget blueprint” isn’t that it was released from the blind chauvinistic henchmen of a crusty 1980’s plastic troll doll (although this fact alone should usher speculation), it’s that it’s seen as a party-specific concern. The very thought that enough would approve the prioritization of money (of which would mean nothing to the pockets of corrupted government officials) over human lives is extremely disappointing. Especially from those who took an oath to serve with our best interest at heart. Healthy food being provided to everyone at a reasonable price is not a privilege of the privileged. It’s not even a human right, it’s a human necessity to eat.

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