Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Wednesday 02/26/14

Obesity Rates Decline Among Children

Following up on today's Washington Insider, I wanted to highlight a piece in the New York Times today that the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention reported a 43% decline in obesity rates among children ages 2-to-5 years old over the past decade.

According to the report, studies show early childhood obesity can have lifelong effects. Those children are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

Tying into today's Insider piece, the NYT stated "Children now consume fewer calories from sugary beverages than they did in 1999."…

Washington Insider: Sin Tax for Sugar

One of the downsides to the intrusive and expensive farm programs now being implemented is that they are highly visible now, and so get blamed for stuff they really don't do, probably. For example, the Washington Post, which hung around the fringes of the almost perpetual farm bill fight, is now editorializing that since the government is up to its neck in farm interventions, it should use those policies to accomplish far-reaching goals, like reducing obesity.

It is interesting to note that so far, no one has even suggested that the farm programs have social objectives of their own — especially since no such debate was held by the congressional ag leaders or the committees when they considered the current bill.

In fact, the Post approach is a clever argument, although hardly new, and will attract some attention. The Post asserts that, "There's hardly an ingredient in that candy bar you just unwrapped that the government didn't have a strong, distorting hand in producing — the peanuts, the sugar, the milk, to name a few," it says. It continues, "U.S. sugar companies, for example, benefit from a series of overlapping trade protections that the recent "reform" farm bill left untouched." It goes on in this vein, and then suggests, "this supposed economic policy ... has now become highly socialized with benefits for well-heeled operations and operators at the expense of taxpayers and consumers."

The conclusion is quite straightforward, the Post says. "Getting rid of these supports is the right thing to do economically." But, "obviously, the government shouldn't stop there. An effective anti-obesity policy would include taxes on certain bad-for-you foods." This would be even better than current policy which "nudges prices up, allowing companies "that haven't earned it" to profit, the Post says. Its plan would benefit the federal Treasury while fighting obesity.

The tax cure for obesity is already favored by some public-health advocates who want new taxes on products such as sugary drinks, which account for a large chunk of Americans' consumption of sweeteners. However, that policy has limits, the Post says and suggests that "going after just one class — sugary drinks — might encourage people to replace those drinks with other bad foods rather than cut back on sweeteners altogether.

The Post then points to research from Cornell and Stanford that found that "applying a 20% tax to soda would reduce calorie consumption by about 4%, while a general tax applied to sugars at the ingredient stage "would reduce calorie consumption by nearly 19%" and bring along "sizable effects on salt and fat intake."

Just in case you thought the Post has few readers among congressional ag leaders, it is interesting to note that it has at least one in the White House — First Lady Michelle Obama, who is pushing her own plan to scale back the marketing of sugary drinks and junk food at America's schools. An event to do just that took place yesterday and included Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. This certainly will earn him some push-back from corn and sugar interests.

Under the proposed rules, companies would be limited in what products they could advertise on signs, vending machines, cups and menu boards on school grounds — a large, $150 million business in 2009, with 93% of that money promoting beverages.

While 38% of school districts already prohibit advertisements for unhealthy foods and fast food restaurants, the first lady's initiative would expand that ban. Schools would require drink companies to promote their diet sodas or water on signs and scoreboards, rather than full-calorie options. That list will become smaller after new rules, set to go into effect on July 1, that limit the sale of foods and beverages that are low in nutritional value and high in sugar and fat.

The announcement on Tuesday comes as the first lady is crisscrossing the country to promote the fourth anniversary of her initiative designed to promote child health. She also is participating in a media blitz surrounding the anniversary, including an appearance last week on "The Tonight Show" and interviews in the coming days with the "Today Show" and celebrity chef Rachel Ray.

For decades, the sweetener lobby has seemed invincible in the face of somewhat feeble efforts by some budget hawks to weaken its supports but now appears to face new pressures, especially since the sugar industry's "no net budget cost" claims have been crushed by enormous government losses and payments on forfeited sugar.

The new campaigns are different — urban, health-based, anti-sweetener efforts that have little to do with costly programs but nevertheless face new scrutiny far beyond that from the friendly Ag committees. Whether these industries continue to prove to be fireproof, as they have in the past, remains to be seen, but it is clear that this is a new kind of challenge that these industries may be less well equipped to withstand, Washington Insider believes.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 8:01AM CST 02/26/14 by Chris Clayton
Comments (4)
Let me see; Food control by the dictator, Gun registration by the dictator ,Mandated fuel mix by the dictator,Rewards to people that comply with the dictator, Sounds like " Cradle-to-Grave govt. control to this 74 year old. And he has threatened to over-ride congress to obtain his agenda. He has a PEN.!!
Posted by Dick Doriguzzi at 7:43AM CST 02/27/14
I imagine if they did the studies that took in the economic status of the children we would be getting a different story. The lower the economic status the more likely that the people will be obese. What is one common denominator of the economic disadvantages? Food stamps. One of the reasons that schools are turning away from Michelle's programs is the amount of food the children are throwing away. Why are they throwing it away? Because it is not what they get to eat at home and they don't want the healthy food they get at school. Time to mandate the junk food and fast food restaurant purchasing out of the SNAP program. If they can do it in the WIC program they should definitely do it in SNAP. But that would upset a large democrat voting block so I am sure we will hear nothing from Michelle on making SNAP better, only larger.
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 9:34AM CST 02/27/14
Feed the little tykes pizza for every meal, they love it, they will eat it hot or cold, fresh or day or 2 old. It has veggies, dairy, meat and grains in it what else could you ask for a little fruit for dessert and a big glass of milk and problem solved. These kids are not going to eat something that looks like the dog threw up and only the Obamas can pronounce. Trying to hide soda advertisements will do nothing to cut down on consumption except make some fool feel good about themselves.
Posted by GORDON KEYES at 10:48AM CST 02/27/14
Gordon, part of the problem WAS the milk and fruit. They also did not want the vegetables. It wasn't mystery food they were throwing away, much of it was fresh. Apparently they wanted pizza, micro Mac and Cheese, nuked chicken nuggets and the like followed up with pop. No amount of school behavior is going to make an impact until the home learning is changed. If you want him to stop hitting his thumb with a hammer, you have to stop giving the idiot a hammer.
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 4:15PM CST 03/03/14
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