Example Of The Economic Impact Of Corn Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Corn, United States, Industry, America, People, Crop, System, Food

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/02/25

The corn industry is something that has shaped the way that American agriculture and even food production have developed in the United States. Corn is one of the three agricultural staples of the word: the three agricultural stapes are rice, wheat, and corn (McDonald). Without these three foods in massive production around the world, it would be impossible to produce enough food to feed the entirety of the human race. It is for this reason that humanity began to produce so much corn; however, today, in the United States, corn production has begun to happen on such massive levels that there are excess stores of corn for the United States. Corn has become one of the most powerful industrial and agricultural interests over time.
(Wright et al).
It is clear through Figure 1 that Ethanol is the primary product that is created with the stores of corn that exist in the United States (Wright et al.). Corn has become something that the United States economy relies on heavily, and the corn industry has convinced the people of the world that it is an extremely efficient crop for feeding large amounts of people (King Corn). Despite the industry’s attempts to convince people that corn is an excellent cash crop, corn is extremely inefficient at feeding people as a whole, and the industry is certainly not focused on feeding people with the crop of corn that is produced each year (Wright et al.). The American corn system is inefficient at feeding people (McDonald). As a cash crop, corn is excellent, but it does better as a biofuel than it does as a food source.
Very little of the corn crop that is produced each year goes to the food industry when compared to the other uses for corn that are commonly found in the American corn system. The American government subsidizes the American corn system, and as a result, they are heavily reliant on the support of the government for the success of the industry (King Corn). As a result, the government and the corn industry are locked together, because the government is reliant on the corn industry for production, while the industry needs the subsidies to be successful and financially solvent (King Corn). Overall the economic system that supports the corn industry is an economic system that does not prioritize the needs of the people. Instead, this system prioritizes the desires of the leaders of the industry, and lines people’s pockets instead of putting food in people’s mouths (King Corn). The subsidization of the corn economy was a mistake that American lawmakers are still trying to balance.
In addition to being too heavily focused on biofuels and other corn applications, the corn system is highly vulnerable to shocks. Although a large monoculture dominating much of the country with a single cropping system might be an efficient and profitable way to grow corn at an industrial scale, there is a price to being so big, with so little diversity. Given enough time, most massive monocultures fail, often spectacularly. Foley writes, “In the U.S., corn uses more land than any other crop, spanning some 97 million acres U.S. corn also consumes a large amount of our freshwater resources, including an estimated 5.6 cubic miles per year of irrigation water And fertilizer use for corn is massive: over 5.6 million tons of nitrogen is applied to corn each year through chemical fertilizers Much of this fertilizer, along with large amounts of soil, washes into the nation’s lakes, rivers and coastal oceans, polluting waters and damaging ecosystems along the way. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest, and most iconic, example of this” (Foley). The agricultural and environmental costs of corn are massive. In short, corn is doing incredible harm to the environment; as it ruins each environment that it is placed in, the system becomes susceptible to economic shocks. Economic shocks cause corn prices to fall and the corn industry to falter (Foley).
If corn can kill an ecosystem and also fail to live up to its expectations regarding the amount of food produced by the industry, it is still offering something to the American government and society—the security of a cash crop that is consumed on a worldwide level (Kanter). There are significant benefits to ensuring that the United States has control over one of the three major food cash crops in the world; the United States as a significant investment in the development of corn applications because of the amount of corn the United States is capable of producing in a given year.
The corn system costs taxpayers a huge amount of money each year. According to Foley, the corn economy is a system that is highly subsidized by the American government—it sometimes receives crop insurance payments, direct payments, and even mandates from the government (Foley). Crop insurance is one of the largest corn subsidies that the United States government is paying today. In fact, for the 2012 season U.S. crop insurance programs will likely pay out an estimated $20 billion or more. However, to maintain the stability of these economies, the United States has to use taxpayer money to ensure that the subsidies of the various corn-related industries are paid (Foley). The American taxpayer is the one who is, essentially, paying for all the corn that the United States cultivates but does not use for the purposes of food. Even the development of ethanol is sometimes subsidized by the American public; for all this, the American public has been repeatedly let down by the corn industry (Pollan).
One of the biggest things that the corn industry has done to Americans is to introduce the idea of high fructose corn syrup (Pollan). Over the years, the presence of high fructose corn syrup in a number of different products has made the American palate very accustomed to sweets and sugars (Pollan). This addiction to sweets and sugars can be traced back to the presence of high fructose corn syrup in so many processed foods; it even has a link to the diabetes problem and obesity crisis that is happening in the United States at this time (Pollan). Because there is so much corn that is produced—and there is so much pressure to continue producing—corn producers need to find a way to shoehorn their product into as many alternative products as possible. High fructose corn syrup was a brilliant marketing move on behalf of the corn industry (Pollan).
As a cash crop, corn has been incredibly successful. Its success was not necessarily due to its excellence as a cash crop or the ability of corn to feed masses of people, but is instead due to the persistence of the corn industry and their ability to put corn products into a variety of different products that Americans consume with regularity. Indeed, the corn industry has not been good for the American people as a whole; the industry is responsible for taking huge amounts of taxpayer monies each year, and the American people have gotten little in return as a result of this agreement. The corn industry has also foisted products like high fructose corn syrup on the American people without thinking about how these products will affect Americans in the long run; the industry has also significantly contributed to the obesity and diabetes problems in the United States. There is no doubt that the corn industry has problems, and that the United States government panders to the industry strongmen too much; however, corn is such a powerful economic weapon that it seems unlikely that the government will relinquish that relationship anytime soon.


Foley, Jonathon. 'It's Time To Rethink America's Corn System'. Scientific American 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
Kanter, Rob. 'Environmental Almanac: Environmental Impacts Of Increasing Corn Production'.Environmentalalmanac.blogspot.com. N.p., 2007. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
King Corn. Greene: Aaron Woolfe, 2007. DVD.
McDonald, Kay. 'Corn's Domino Effect'. Nytimes.com. N.p., 2011. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
Pollan, Michael. 'The Food Movement, Rising'. Nybooks.com. N.p., 2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
Wright, C. K., and M. C. Wimberly. 'Recent Land Use Change In The Western Corn Belt Threatens Grasslands And Wetlands'. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110.10 (2013): 4134-4139. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.

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