The 2014 Farm Bill: Farm Subsidies and Food Oppression

27 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2015 Last revised: 30 Jul 2015

See all articles by Andrea Freeman

Andrea Freeman

University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law

Date Written: June 1, 2015


The 2014 Farm Bill left intact the allocation of agricultural subsidies established by the Bill’s first incarnation in 1933. This stasis is surprising in light of evolving medical insights into nutrition and shifting national health priorities, indicating that health and nutrition are not driving the Farm Bill. Instead, it appears that large agribusiness has succeeded in capturing the majority of resources allocated to farm support. Although farm subsidies comprise only 14% of the Farm Bill, they are highly controversial because, not only do they determine which agricultural industries are likely to thrive and survive, they guide the nation’s consumption patterns. The health of farmers and individuals are therefore both at stake in each Farm Bill. Further, agribusinesses’ influence over the Farm Bill appears not only to contribute to poor health outcomes in the United States generally, but also to cause disproportionate harm to individuals marginalized by race and class. To deconstruct the racial and socioeconomic harms of subsidized commodities, it is useful to analyze farm subsidies using the lens of food oppression theory. Food oppression theory examines how facially neutral food policy and law can physically debilitate members of marginalized and subordinated groups, creating and perpetuating racial and socioeconomic health disparities. It considers how corporate influence can lead to policy that prioritizes industry over health. Additionally, it explores how racial stereotypes and myths about personal responsibility create apathy toward health disparities, making them appear natural and irremediable, rather than products of structural inequalities that law and policy have created and thus have the potential to dismantle. Employing a food oppression lens, this paper assesses whether new aspects of the 2014 Farm Bill serve to improve health outcomes, both generally and across racial and socioeconomic lines, and offers brief proposals that would represent progress toward mitigating or eliminating both the general and disparate harms of subsidized commodities.

Keywords: Food Law and Policy, Agricultural Subsidies, Critical Race Theory, Food Oppression, 2014 Farm Bill

Suggested Citation

Freeman, Andrea, The 2014 Farm Bill: Farm Subsidies and Food Oppression (June 1, 2015). Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 1271, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Andrea Freeman (Contact Author)

University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )

Honolulu, HI 96822-2350
United States

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