Q: Why doesn't the government subsidize healthy food/organics like they do soybeans/corn?

A: The problem with subsidizing fruits and vegetables is that subsidies lead to overproduction, and you can't store things like broccoli and lettuce the way you can store corn and soybeans, which can last five years or so. What do you do with all that broccoli? But you can subsidize demand for fruits and veggies in several ways. What if you offered people receiving food stamps coupons to buy produce? Or added more fruits and vegetables to the school lunch program? Or subsidized retailers like Wal-Mart to reduce the price of produce? All these things would increase demand, and farmers would respond by growing more—but not too much more.

Q: What would healthy foods/organics cost if they were subsidized like corn?

A: They would cost less than they do now, but they would still probably cost a little more, because organic production is more labor intensive. Basically, farm chemicals are labor-saving devices, and farmers who don't use them—weed killers especially—have to work harder or hire more help.

Michael with more on where our food really comes from
FROM: Before You Grocery Shop Again: Food 101 with Michael Pollan
Published on January 27, 2010