The Impact of the Farm Bill on Southern States

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Ample consumption of fruits and vegetables is important for growth and development, as well as prevention of chronic disease.  Yet, few Americans eat enough of them to meet nutrition needs, and many Southern states report very low intake of fruits and vegetables.  Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables is consequently an important component in any attempt to improve the nutritional status and health of the population.  This goal is difficult to obtain without addressing the accessibility of fruits and vegetables, which ultimately leads to an examination of federal farm policies.

An analysis of the influence of the federal Farm Bill on nutrition & health

Food cropland in the Southern States is used primarily to grow crops subsidized by the federal government.  Only five percent grows fruits and vegetables.


Farmers receiving subsidy payments are not obligated to produce the same commodity crop planted previously.  In fact, farmers may grow other commodity crops or keep land fallow while receiving subsidies, except that farmers receiving these subsidy payments may not plant fruits, certain nuts, vegetables, or wild rice.  In addition, farmers growing fruits and vegetables on land qualifying for subsidies will incur financial penalties for doing so.

The Center for Mississippi Health Policy has issued a report, From Field to Fitness: Aligning Farm Policy with Health Policy to Improve Nutrition & Health, that  examines federal agricultural policies contained in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, commonly referred to as the “Farm Bill,” in light of current health needs.  The Center collaborated with sixteen states participating in the Southern Obesity Consortium to examine key points of the report with an emphasis on southern states.  The result was the issue brief, The Impact of the Farm Bill on Southern States.










A broad-reaching federal policy, the Farm Bill has been successful in its original intent of supporting a stable food supply and decreasing the incidence of hunger. The issue at hand is that American dietary needs have changed as obesity has replaced hunger as the overriding food and nutrition issue.  This situation is particularly evident in southern states where obesity rates are highest.

To download a copy of the full report, click HERE.

To download a copy of the Issue Brief for Southern States, click HERE.

For a high quality printable copy of the Issue Brief for Southern States, click HERE. (This document will take longer to open.)

To download a copy of the Issue Brief for Mississippi, click HERE.


The Southern Obesity Consortium is comprised of sixteen states that participate annually in the Southern Obesity Summit. For more information on this collaboration, visit