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Subsidizing Thanksgiving Dinner

Thursday November 28th, 2013   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 8:13am PST   •  

22300459_SIn 2013, the American Farm Bureau Federation reports that a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people will cost $49.04 on average. But did you know that the U.S. federal government is subsidizing a portion of that meal?

It’s true! In 2012, the most recent year for which we have data, the U.S. federal government provided U.S. wheat producers with over $1.1 billion, U.S. dairy producers with over $447 million, and U.S. corn producers with more than $2.7 billion.

And that shows up in your Thanksgiving dinner! The wheat can be found in the rolls, pie crust and stuffing and the dairy products go into pumpkin pie and whipped topping on your dining table. But it’s a lot harder to find the corn in a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

As it happens, the corn is there, but you probably don’t notice it because it’s actually in the turkey! The way that works is because corn is a primary ingredient in the feed stock for turkeys, and today’s average 30-pound farm-raised turkey eats a lot of corn to reach that weight.

Now, onto the subsidies. We plowed through the Department of Agriculture’s data on the amount of corn, wheat and dairy products that were produced in 2012 and estimated out how many bushels, pounds or cups of each would go into each item on the Farm Bureau’s Thanksgiving menu.

Altogether, we estimate that in giving the U.S.’ multi-billion earning corn, wheat and dairy producers so many billions of dollars, the U.S. government reduces the direct cost to consumers of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner by about 27.4 cents, with about twenty-six and a half cents of that to produce the corn that was used to feed the turkey.

National Geographic estimates that 46 million American households will have turkey as part of their Thanksgiving meal. Collectively then, the U.S. government is paying over $12.6 million in subsidies to the corn, wheat and dairy industries just for this one meal.

Since the U.S. federal government is running a very large deficit however, that really means that it is actually borrowing over $12.6 million so that each of these 46 million U.S. households can each save 27.4 cents on their Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Now, if the federal government were really serious about making food more affordable for the people who live in U.S. households, they should perhaps look at eliminating the mandates that require ethanol produced from corn be included in ever increasing quantities in the nation’s fuel supplies. That one change in the U.S. government’s policies has the potential to reduce the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner by as much as $15 because it would dramatically reduce the cost of producing turkeys in the U.S.

Because if the federal government’s elected officials and bureaucrats really cared about people, not to mention the environment, they wouldn’t be out to pay farmers so much money to grow food that is never intended to be eaten, but is instead intended to be burned as fuel in cars.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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November 2013