New Oxford study simulates outcomes if global agriculture subsidies shifted

According to publicly available data, the US is severely undersupplying dietary fiber as a nutrient, so it’s no surprise that most Americans only eat half the daily recommended dietary fiber. In fact, over 90% of Americans are fiber deficient, a deficiency that is linked to the most common, deadly, and costly diseases we face.1

A new study out of University of Oxford & the Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute predicts health, environmental, and economic outcomes in the year 2030 if global agricultural subsidies shifted to foods rich in dietary fiber.2 The modeling simulates scenarios in which major nations have repurposed half or more of their ag subsidies to support veggies, fruits, and other horticultural food products.

Completely repurposing subsidies to shore up fiber-rich foods increased consumption of fruits and veggies by 5% – 10%. That increase may not seem like much, but according to this model it would prevent about 444,000 deaths from diet-related diseases per year, which means more healthy and flourishing lives as well as more secure labor forces. This model also predicts a 2% reduction in global GHG emissions.

Graph showing predicted outcomes for subsidy-scenarios from Springmann & Freund (2022)

Repurposing half of subsidies to shore up fiber-rich foods shows similar trends as completely repurposing subsidies but at proportionally lower rates (for example, half the health benefits), but interestingly promises a better balance of economic welfare and regulatory efficiency than complete repurposing.

Eliminating all subsidies across the board resulted in decreased consumption of healthful foods and an increase in diet-related mortality. This reinforces the fact that ag subsidies have a major influence not only on production but on public health.

Ultimately, the study suggests that strategic repurposing and restructuring of ag subsidies to better support fiber-rich foods will lead to net improvements in public health, GHG mitigation, and economic welfare, at varying degrees. This is exactly why we at Agriculture Fairness Alliance advocate for prioritizing fiber-rich foods in federal ag spending.