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Putting a Wider Focus on Agriculture

Here in the Good Food Movement, we often find ourselves amidst others with similar backgrounds and interests. It can feel like a bubble, hard to remember the wider reality of what it is we are fighting for and against. We can also get sidetracked into singular mentalities simply due to the complex, multi-layered issues that surround our current food system. It’s important to broaden our scope once and awhile, to expose ourselves to perhaps the very opposite of what we immerse ourselves in on a day-to-day basis.

One example is Focus Agriculture, put on by the Agri-Culture organization, a non-profit offshoot of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau. This unique “first-in-the-nation” educational program targets business professionals and community leaders, providing a thorough and in-depth look at the multi-faceted arena that is agriculture. Read more

EPA Intern Offends Sensitive Meat-Industry Souls

An iron-clad rule for government bureaucrats of all ranks: thou shalt not question the American habit of eating more than a half pound of meat per day. The folks responsible for churning out millions of pounds of steaks, chops, nuggets, and burgers–and vast, toxic manure cesspools–are sensitive souls. Hurting their feelings is … mean! From the Hill:

The Farm Bureau is none too happy with the EPA today for publishing a blog post urging Americans to give up meat. Read more

Another Assault on the SOLE Food Movement

Causing no end of difficulties in our national discourse is the steadfast belief held by both the right and the left that everything is either right or left: bad or good, strong or weak, despotic or patriotic.  You’re either with us or you’re against us.  President Obama addressed this very effectively before both House Republicans and Senate Democrats in recent days.  It is media driven to a large extent because the media need controversy to sell papers, or bytes or views or whatever it is they’re selling these days.

The most common form this takes is the old build’em-up-then-tear’em-down routine.  Perhaps the only thing many Americans enjoy more than the uplifting emotion of a success story is the schadenfreude of watching that success come tumbling down.  So when an idea comes to the fore, the critics ooze from the woodwork and their primary tactic is divide and conquer.  Label it, frame the debate, and the fight is won or lost before the story is even told.

For a long time in the circles I travel in this was not a problem because the ideas embodied in what some have come to call SOLE food (Sustainable, Organic, Local, & Ethical) were not perceived as a threat to the established paradigm.  Recent successes such as Michael Pollan’s work have, however, shined a very bright spotlight on advocates of real food.  As a result, people who have been toiling at these ideas for decades are becoming targets of powerful interests in the Big Food lobby.  Such is the case this week at WeeklyStandard.com, where Missouri Farm Bureau vice president Blake Hurst has found his most recent audience. Read more

The Farm Bureau: Denying Climate Change, Undermining Labor and Losing Relevancy in 2010

The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Bob Stallman, threw down the gauntlet on Sunday in his annual speech to his industrial cronies. What got him riled up? Not rising seed prices, superweeds, or the unpredictable weather farmers face due to climate change. Instead, the focus of his speech was the critics of synthetic agriculture: “Emotionally charged labels such as monoculture, factory farmer, industrial food, and big ag threaten to fray our edges,” he said. “A line must be drawn between our polite and respectful engagement with consumers and how we must aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule.” His strong remarks came following a letter signed by 47 scientists imploring the AFBF to enter into dialog about their denier position on climate change.

In addition to the havoc being wreaked on the environment, one of the biggest trespasses of industrial agriculture has been the elimination of millions of jobs, resulting in the emptying out of rural communities worldwide. The repercussions of the loss of opportunity for rural America has been tragic: many towns are now plagued by dilapidated schools and poor health services, and a rising epidemic of methamphetamine use and production has filled in where more beneficial small businesses used to thrive. Read more