This graphic and its kin from Brad Plumer’s Vox piece (“Here’s how much each country spends on food“)
find a nice response in this piece by farmer and activist Brad Wilson:
Family Farmers & Rural “Sweatshops” Subsidizing US/World Food:
The points made in this [Vox] article and it’s charts about poverty and the struggle to be able to afford food are extremely important. Nevertheless, on that point and others, I find the chart project to be seriously inadequate, for example, as explained below.
First, the charts show the US as spending the least on food, which raises a number of questions. Are we the ones most reliant on “sweatshop labor,” and by that I mean, are we the ones who most exploit the farmers of the world, coercing them into subsidizing us in our food purchases?
We should have no doubt, for decades, US and global farmers have massively subsidized the US food system, and all other food systems, below “living wage” (fair trade) levels, below minimum levels, and below zero. Directly as a result of this, most US farmers have gone broke. (And yes, this is a huge contradiction to the myth that farmers have been beneficiaries, not victims, of the “farm” bill.)
Meanwhile those purchasing from them have had repeated years of record profits and record returns on equity (not anything remotely close to a need for being subsidized by farmers, and not with any “means testing” [on means testing for AgBiz, see here]). We can then ask how much of this exploitation of US and global farmers was passed on through to subsidize the food of all US consumers…
You can read the rest of Brad’s important and fiery piece on ZBlogs here.
It’s important to realize the rest of the story when we see the kinds of analysis Brad Plumer presents, and it’s way past time, as Brad Wilson rightly and regularly points out, for “the rest of the story” to take their rightful prominent place as a main part of any story about food, farms, and prices.