U.S. Farm Spending Diverges from Nutritional Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends making “half your plate fruits & vegetables.”1

Yet, the DGA also observes that 80-90% of Americans fail to consume the recommended amounts of vegetables and fruits.

Meanwhile Americans consume too many refined grains, and for the most part eat adequate amounts of meat, poultry, and eggs.

Interestingly, these dietary intakes seem to correlate with federal farm spending.

Portion of 2020 Farm Spending on the Top Consumed Foods*

  • Meat, poultry, eggs (26%) + Animal Feed (16%) = 42%
  • Food grains 14% (We assume that the majority of food grains end up in highly processed, shelf-stable foods, stripped of dietary fiber).

Portion of 2020 Farm Spending on the least consumed healthy

  • Fruit 1.3%
  • Vegetables 1%
  • Dairy 6.7% (not including animal feed)

What about Dairy?

Considering that the NIH estimates that 36% of Americans have lactase maladaption,2 it follows that at least a third of Americans would look for their calcium, potassium, and vitamin D from alternatives to dairy. Alternative sources identified by the DGA are “nuts, seeds, and soy products,” categories that, according to the chart above, Americans are consuming at greater rates.

According to the DGA, fortified soy alternatives meet the requirements for dairy:

“Dairy and fortified soy alternatives provide protein and a variety of nutrients that are underconsumed during (childhood and adolescence). These include three nutrients of public health concern: potassium, calcium, and vitamin D.”

Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans 2020-2025.pdf p.101

So it’s possible that more people are acquiring the nutrients afforded in dairy by alternative means.

An Opportunity

The USDA has an opportunity to increase federal spending on the production, distribution, and accessibility of fruits, vegetables, and food crops that deliver adequate dietary fiber. In doing so, more Americans might be attaining the daily dietary goals laid out in the DGA.

*2020 was an extraordinary year where farm spending more than doubled due to the SARS-CoV2 pandemic as well as international trade issues. If we exclude those extraordinary expenses …

Portion of 2020 Farm Spending after removing COVID and Trade relief Spending

  • Meat, poultry, eggs 13% + animal feed 24% = 37%
  • Food grains 7%
  • Fruit 2%
  • Dairy 1.3%
  • Vegetables 0.8%

Note: approximately 25% of farm spending is ‘uncategorized’, meaning that there’s no clear way to attribute that spending to specific end products.

  1. dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf#page=26
  2. niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/lactose-intolerance/definition-facts