[Beyond] Sustainable Food

Jason Richard jason.e.richard at gmail.com
Thu May 27 13:28:45 PDT 2010

It's no great surprise the farm subsidies are never a hot button issue in
elections in times like these where there are wars amongst a laundry list of
problems, but the links Emily provided pretty much run down every reason
that I've ever heard as to why subsidies are so moronically outdated.  They
are a product of a time when the market and nature failed the agricultural
industry and now that system that eased the burden of those failures has
completely insulated farming from anything resembling normal market forces.

Even in an era where the term "too big to fail" has taken on such venomous
connotations towards auto makers and banks people continue to be blissfully
unaware of the way that the farming industry is marching in that same
direction with the government holding its hand all the way down the path.

The problem, at least as I see it, is that the farmer has long held a
mythical place in the American narrative.  Our first president was a farmer
when he wasn't busy fighting.  Farmers were the back bone of the American
economy for its first 100 years.  The Jeffersonian ideal of a man going west
and breaking the land with nothing but his bare hands and will speaks
directly to the cherished tradition of rugged individualism in this
country.  And much of the story of farming from the 1870's to the New Deal
is one of hard working farmers falling victim to nature and big business.
That dual legacy of standard bearer and victim is tough to shake when trying
to get someone to look at the problem in a modern context.

I think the economic ramifications of this, if people could wrap their heads
around them, might be the most persuasive way at undermining the power of
the corporate farms that are so environmentally problematic.  Tell someone
that they can save the planet by gardening and you'll get as many shrugs as
you do nods.  If you can get people to see their tax dollars are being
wasted to help corporations?  That can light a fire.

On Wed, May 26, 2010 at 8:02 AM, Emily Burgess <ebritt at gmail.com> wrote:

> You will love growing your own food, John. It is daunting, but the miracle
> of it (it's *just* science, but it's so foreign to so many of us as to seem
> otherworldly) is so amazing. Growing for one is extremely daunting, and, as
> I have written, I will not be composting in my third floor apartment. I am
> considering starting a container garden for zucchini and peppers (both of
> which adore hot weather) on my patio, but I haven't made that time yet,
> having sealed off my living space to/from the outside world. And picking two
> or three crops to grow is not the same as farming for subsistence.
> I've only done a very little bit of browsing this morning, but here's
> something I found that concisely overviews some of the issues I have with
> corn subsidies in particular:
> http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/06/how-farm-subsidies-harm-taxpayers-consumers-and-farmers-too
> Yes, it's from the American Heritage Foundation, a notoriously conservative
> organization, whose core principles I just read and disagreed with to a
> large extent.
> This opinion piece takes a few minutes to get to corn subsidies, but it
> uses actual data to try to make its argument:
> http://www.grist.org/article/2010-03-25-corn-ethanol-meat-hfcs/.
> I'd love to see more compelling arguments for and against the subsidies.
> Consider this very short blurb from 2004:
> http://www.americasdebate.com/forums/simple/index.php/t5917.html
> Then there's the wiki article, which has among its many arguments;
> "It is argued[*citation needed<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Citation_needed>
> *] that in some countries that without support from government, domestic
> farmers would not be able to compete with foreign imports. Removing
> subsidies would therefore drive domestic farmers out of business, leaving
> the country with a much smaller (or possibly non existent) agriculture
> industry. A country that is unable to produce domestically enough food to
> feed its people is at the mercy of the world market, and is more vulnerable
> to trade pressure and global food shortages and price shocks."
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidy
> Yeah, everyone who cares should maybe try the wikipedia link first and see
> what you think.
> --
> ~ Emily
> "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'thank you,' that would
> suffice." ~ Meister Eckhart
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