According to the International Monetary Fund’s most recent report for 2018, America is the world’s second largest economy based on gross domestic product (GDP) using purchasing power parity (PPP), or the ability of consumers to purchase goods and services with a unit of domestic currency. America is a production powerhouse—the U.S. food export industry alone is currently worth $144.5 billion. The largest end-use food exports are soybeans, meat, and poultry. America’s enormous production and export of agricultural commodities have beneficially changed the world food economy: Diets higher in animal-source foods tend to be higher in micronutrients than their plant-heavy counterparts. But the gigantic U.S. economy for commodity crops and the legislation that makes it possible have also created problematic factory farms, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and a diet for American consumers laden with cheap meat and highly processed foods. Now, facing explosive world population growth dependent on increasingly fewer natural resources and learning to adapt to the economic disruptions from a global pandemic, we must look at how American regulation of agricultural commodities has helped create, insulate, and normalize the factory farming industry, and how regulatory changes can reform farming to healthfully and sustainably feed a growing population.
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