Where the money goes

The first farm bill, passed during the Great Depression, propped up prices by paying strapped farmers not to plant. In the current bill, passed in 2008, the largest share of the budget goes to food stamps.

Nice eggs

The government wants to protect you from ugly ova. Before eggs head to the supermarket, USDA inspectors grade them on their looks — AA for firm yolks and smooth shells down to B for bumpy shells and watery whites.

They’re not unsafe, just unsightly — and wind up being sold as dried or liquid eggs.

Is the farm bill making you fat?

Americans consume nearly 20 percent more calories a day than they did in the early 1980s. That’s when the government began shifting toward agriculture subsidies that led to an explosion of cheap, bountiful carbs and meat. Coincidence? Step on the scale.

Sweet deal

Since 1934 the federal government has limited sugar imports to boost domestic prices, a perk the industry fiercely protects. In June, sugar lobbyists successfully worked to kill a Senate amendment to end the support. Without it, an Iowa State University study calculated, sugar prices would drop as much as 34 percent.

That’s a LOT of flakes

Corn is the king of U.S. crops: In 2011 growers got $2 billion in direct government support. No wonder Americans eat more of it than Europe and China combined — including 11 billion pounds of breakfast cereal a year.

Don Draper’s secret

Enjoy that wrinkle-resistant shirt, courtesy of USDA scientists who developed perma-press cotton in the 1950s.

All the soy that’s fit to print

That smudgy newsprint on your fingertips? Another farm bill creation. Most newspapers are now printed with soy-based ink, developed with money the government requires farmers to set aside for marketing and finding new uses for their crops.

Corn keeps your bottom dry

Thank the Department of Agriculture for modern disposable diapers. In the 1970s, USDA biochemist Bill Doane manipulated corn starch to create a highly absorbent material he called “Super Slurper.” The current farm bill includes $321 million for R&D that could lead to the next landfill scourge.

The U.S. produces 709 billion pounds of corn each year. Where does it end up?

1.6% cereal

2% starch

6% sweeteners

13% exports

27% ethanol

46% livestock feed


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