Doctors blame Congress for obesity problem

Just as an experiment in seeing how long Congress can ignore the electorate you may want to contact YOUR congresspeople with your feelings on the farm bill.
While your at it, since impeachment is off the table, maybe you could ask them if we could start a "war crimes tribunal".
Lastly, if you really want to see them twitch, ask if they could sponsor "Public Campaign Financing".
The theory is that they work for us.
Posted on Sat, Oct. 27, 2007 10:15 PM Doctors blame Congress for obesity problem, lobby for a more healthful farm bill By ROB HOTAKAINEN McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON | If you¹re feeling fat these days, blame Congress.
That¹s just what the nation¹s doctors are doing, saying that federal lawmakers are responsible for the fact that a salad costs so much more than a Big Mac.
Hoping to produce thinner waistlines, many doctors ‹ including the American Medical Association ‹ want Congress to stop subsidizing the production of foods that are high in fat and cholesterol and spend more to promote fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains that are not.
Farm Belt lawmakers are on the defensive.
³I agree that obesity and health are serious issues in America today,² said Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. ³However, blaming the cause on the crops that we grow in Kansas and/or the U.S. farm program is overlooking the personal responsibility we all have in our daily lives and diets.²
The debate is intensifying as the Senate prepares to vote on a new farm bill. On Thursday, the agriculture panel approved a bill that would give a record $2 billion for specialty crops, which include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops. That¹s at least four times as much as what Congress provided in the 2002 farm bill.
The 2007 farm bill will determine which food industries get the most help from U.S. taxpayers over the next five years.
³The real scandal in Washington is the farm bill,² said Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. ³Senators take millions from corporations that produce bacon, burgers and other fatty foods. Then Congress buys up these unhealthy products and dumps them on our school lunch program. Companies get rich, and kids get fat.²
Fruit and vegetable growers, who have long felt ignored on Capitol Hill, are confident they will cash in this year. They want to persuade Congress to broaden subsidies beyond traditional farm crops such as corn, wheat, rice and cotton.
³Our markets are highly volatile, yet we have never relied on traditional farm programs to sustain our industry,² said Doug Krahmer, co-owner of Blue Horizon Farms in St. Paul, Ore., which grows blueberries, grass seed, hazelnuts, clover, wheat and flowers.
At a recent congressional field hearing, Krahmer testified for a future farm policy that will not only underpin farms but also ³will support and encourage the health and well-being of all Americans.²
Krahmer noted that on any given day, 45 percent of children eat no fruit at all, while 20 percent eat less than one serving of vegetables. They would benefit, he said, if Congress offered subsidies to lower the prices that consumers pay for fruits and vegetables.
Childhood obesity and the adult diseases associated with it have reached ³epidemic proportions,² Barnard said, noting government projections that children born in 2000 have a one in three lifetime risk of developing diabetes. U.S. farm subsidies ensure that high-fat foods, such as corn syrup and corn oil, are cheap and widely available, while fruits, vegetables and healthier grains are not, he said.
Not everyone, however, thinks that the push to subsidize fruits and vegetables will make people healthier.
Bill Haw, a Kansas City rancher who owns two feedlots with more than 55,000 head of cattle, said he doesn¹t take any subsidies. But he knows why fruit and vegetable farmers want them.
³I think it is drive more than anything by lobbying by people who currently are getting their share of the pie,² Haw said. ³I think people make eating decisions based on what makes them feel good.²
According to Barnard¹s group, agribusiness political action committees have given more than $5 million over the last four election cycles to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. From 1995 to 2004, nearly three-quarters of farm bill agricultural subsidies for food ‹ more than $51 billion ‹ went to producers of sugar, oil, meat, dairy, alcohol and feed crops used for cattle and other farm animals.
The group said that in 2005 alone, Tyson Foods, the nation¹s largest meat producer, received $46.6 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity contracts.
Less than half of 1 percent subsidized fruit and vegetable production, the group said.
Physicians are alarmed, saying the high-fat, high-cholesterol foods subsidized by the farm bill then go to the national school lunch program, contributing to obesity.
Members of Congress have been hearing a similar message from several quarters this year.
In September, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, noted that since 1985, the actual price of fruits and vegetables has increased 40 percent, while the price of sugar and fats has declined 14 percent. ³Underserved communities cannot be denied access to the same healthy and affordable food that is available to more affluent Americans,² he said.
As the Senate prepares to vote on the farm bill, the physicians committee has been running a TV ad that seeks to link agribusiness and Congress.
Called ³Dirty Little Secret,² the ad is a spoof of the legal troubles surrounding Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after an airport restroom sex sting. In the ad, a well-dressed man in a restroom stall taps his foot to signal his willingness to receive political contributions from the pork industry.
All the lobbying appears to be paying off.
³We decided that specialty crops needed to be a priority,² Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told the United Fresh Produce Association last month, before he resigned. He told the group that the recently passed House farm bill includes $365 million in aid to expand block grants to states for specialty crops. To pay for it, Johanns suggested eliminating subsidies for farmers who earn more than $200,000 per year.
Overall, the House¹s farm bill, approved in late July, would offer an estimated $1.7 billion for specialty crop programs. House Democrats say their farm bill would spend $400 million more for a fresh fruit and vegetable program for the school lunch program. It would expand a program that gives vouchers to low-income elderly people who are eligible for food stamps to buy fresh produce at roadside stands. And it would create a demonstration project to evaluate ways to address obesity among low-income groups.


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