Last Updated 07 Apr 2020

The Hijacking of Food and Farm Policy

Category Agriculture, Farm, Food, Meat
Words 1045 (4 pages)
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Diet For a Small Planet, that I made my way from Vermont to California to volunteer for her Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First. There has been a lot to celebrate since then. In every corner of the country, demand for locally and sustainable grown food is rising, with farmers and ranchers growing more chemical-free, healthier food for our nation's schools, universities, restaurants and supermarkets.

Since 2005 the number of farmers markets has doubled, with more than 8000 markets open for business round the country. New local ownership and distribution structures are popping up everywhere, including more than 200 food hubs that are working in innovative ways to get more local, sustainable food to market. More than 180 local food policy councils are transforming food systems from the bottom up. The organic sector, with more and organic acreage has been growing steadily In recent years.

More Information on these Impressive trends can be found In the slides that I presented during my keynote speech to the Women Food and Agriculture Network Conference in Iowa earlier this month to a wonderful crowd of mostly women farmers, landowners and loathe food system advocates. As great as these accomplishments are, the tens of thousands of projects and farms that are building a healthier, more sustainable food system around the country cannot grow quickly enough to counteract the tremendous damage to public health and the environment caused by the existing profit-driven Industrial food system.

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Two key messages In Lap©'s book remain more relevant today than ever. The first?and the basis for my lifelong commitment to eating low on the food chain--- is that it is inefficient and resource-intensive to rely on meat as our primary rotten source. It is clear that we cannot solve our global water, energy, climate change and public health challenges without changing how we produce meat and drastically reducing how much of it we eat.

While we still have a long way to go, we are making slow but steady progress in reducing Americans' meat consumption?which is down four years in a row?mostly driven by consumers' concern for health and animal welfare. Yet It's clear that we wont achieve the far-reaching reforms needed to Improve the way produce feed and raise animals?until we fix the bigger problem plaguing our DOD system?a problem that struck me as the second and most important message not caused by scarcity of food but scarcity of democracy.

Nearly forty years later, the lack of democracy not only continues to be a fundamental cause of hunger, but also a source of many other serious problems in our food system. Big food and industrial farming interests are hijacking our democracy and public policy at a huge cost to public health and the environment. And sadly, the Obama administration is complicit in this hijacking scheme.

On several fronts, the administration is ignoring civil society calls for reform on several fronts and is giving rarity to industry financial interests over those of public health, the environment and welfare of animals, workers and consumers. Despite a clear and compelling need, it has failed to ban antibiotic use in well animals, pass effective factory farm regulations, or enact federal labeling and stricter regulation of genetically engineered food. No recent example of the administration's failure to put the public interest ahead corporate interests is clearer than the U.

S. Department of Agriculture's proposed poultry rule. This rule would reduce the number of USDA inspectors in poultry acclivities by 75 percent, accelerate assembly lines pace to 175 birds per minute and intensify the use of toxic chemicals to clean the birds being processed. Who profits from this appalling proposal? No surprise there. As Tom Philter reported in Mother Jones magazine, Tyson, Pilgrim's Pride, Purdue, and Sanderson, the nation's leading poultry companies, stand to gain more than $1 billion over the next 5 years.

As well, Congressional lawmakers are ignoring the public interest as they hash out a farm bill that will continue to give away billions to wealthy, profitable farms and agribusiness while slashing programs that promote nutrition, conservation, healthy food and organic agriculture. Because the good food movement lacks political muscle, there is far too little investment and effective federal policy to support?and help scale up good food projects and organic farming.

And because big food and industrial agriculture companies have so much power, the federal government has too many bad policies that are doing far too much to support and enshrine the status quo, making it harder for sustainable agriculture to compete. The proposed farm bill is a perfect case in point. The bill currently being negotiated n conference committee would channel more than $13 billion a year to support and promote chemical-intensive, diversity-destroying monocots that mostly provide feed for animals and vehicle fuel, with less than $200 million annually going to support local and organic diversified agriculture.

The dominance of corporate and large-scale commodity interests in our political system is nothing new?but as the economic power of these industries has become more concentrated, their political clout has grown stronger, and the consequences, Just recently, the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published an in-depth analysis to assess the status of industrial farming five years after the publication of the seminal Pew Commission Report on Industrial Farm Animal Production.

It found that the problems have actually gotten a lot worse. When Civil Eats asked Ralph Logics, an author of the Pew Commission report, to explain the lack of progress, he blamed " the overwhelming influence and power of the animal gag industry... Whether it's affecting members of Congress, whether it's denting and nearly breaking the regulatory process, or whether it's too much influence over academics. Everywhere you look there's too much influence by the industry. In order to counteract that influence and put the public interest back into policy- making, the good food movement must channel more of the energy it devotes to building a healthy food system into blunting the power of industrial agriculture and building a healthier democracy. Otherwise, we will fail to make our vision for a healthy, Just and sustainable food system a reality for everyone. Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I explore the steps that are needed to blunt the power of industrial gag and build greater food democracy.

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