We need a Department of Food, not a Department of Agriculture

Words matter. Nick Kristof's latest column has a great headline: Obama's 'Secretary of Food'?

Kristof lays out part of the problem:
“We’re subsidizing the least healthy calories in the supermarket — high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soy oil, and we’re doing very little for farmers trying to grow real food,” notes Michael Pollan, author of such books as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food.
The column points to the farm lobby as one cause of the problem:
The Agriculture Department — and the agriculture committees in Congress — have traditionally been handed over to industrial farming interests by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Kristof points to two things Obama can do to begin to fix the problems: (1) hire a reformer as the new Secretary of Agriculture, and (2) change the name to Secretary of Food.

But he misses a big part of the solution -- the column only hints at it:
100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming. But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers. In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.
What Kristof leaves out is this: in recent years we voters in urban-industrial states have shown little interest in "agriculture" policy. After all, what do we know about farming? As a result, our representatives have ceded authority on food legislation to politicians from the rural breadbasket states.

President-elect Obama can be only part of the solution. He will need a lot of help.

Voters in Maryland and other urban-industrial states -- all of us eat -- need to push food issues higher on our priority lists. If we let Kansas, Nebraska and California dominate the discussion, we'll only get more of the same, regardless of what Obama does.

So if you eat food, take a closer look at that hunk of sausage called the Farm Bill. It's not very appetizing.

If you eat food, call or write your congressmen today. Tell them that food policy is too important to be left to the farm states and the agriculture lobby. We need a Secretary of Food, ASAP.

No comments:

Post a Comment