Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Eaters Unite!

Michael Pollen for Secretary of Food!
Please sign the petition now!

This is wonderful, a grass roots movement set into motion to try and prevent the nomination of Sec. of Agriculture nominee, Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack.

Check out the previous posts here to find out more about the corn-loving, agribiz gov.

Also, if you want to hear Michael Pollen speak he was interviewed on NPR, it's 4 and a half minutes and well worth the time. He's so well spoken and has such a grasp of the issues from all sides. Sustainability can be profitable. Corn is the problem not the solution.

How do you change the business of agriculture? It's so huge and multifaceted, it's an incredibly daunting challenge. A challenge an insider, with no motivation has any chance of surmounting. Why should he? He's doing just fine under the current system.

I talk all the time about how food is such an integral piece of global warming, the government subsidized corn industry, that feeds corn to cows that make them sick. The methane gases caused by cows belching, and farting makes up 5%, yep that's right, 5% of all global warming gasses. Somehow in the discussion of corn this fact is often over looked.

Could someone tell me again why the tax payers give money to subsidized this lucrative business?

Well lucrative for everyone, but the farmers.


c james. said...

Thank you, Urban Food Guy! You are educating me on the perils of accepting the status quo. I try to be a responsible citizen of the Earth, but am overwhelmed by the deceit that I am 'feeding' on.

Thank you,
c james.

farmfoodguy said...

It's great that urban people are finally becoming active in farm issues in significant numbers, but they're missing some key components of it, and too much talking to each other and not to farmers.

Pollan and others like him have added some pieces to the movement, but he (and they usually) remain weak overall. He's led in getting stuff published at NYT, of course. Pollan is weak on the history of farm politics and this fight for justice, and his readers don't understand it.

Mention of "the subsidized corn industry" illustrates the failure of urban folks to grasp an accurate paradigm. The truth is not so simple. Corn and other commodities lack price responsiveness on both supply and demand sides, so they tend to have below cost market prices. This can be remedied by price floors and supply management (commodity title). At bottom it has nothing to do with subsidies. Ending subsidies (alone) solves nothing, but rather makes things worse. Adequate price floors and related policies make subsidies unnecessary. Farming corn, etc. is not lucrative, (as you correct it). Farmers lost money nearly every year (1981-2006 vs. full costs excluding subsidies and usually with subsidies) and again today, as USDA-ERS figures show.

A huge chance is at hand with Vilsack, and it depends upon the influence of Tom Harkin and the Ag committees. The Harkin-Gephardt farm bill (1980s/90s) would have corrected this core issue.

But urban folks don't seem to know this, that it's not about subsidies. So, how do you change them?

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