Commentary: Food police plan propaganda day

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Mark your calendars for Monday, Oct. 24. That’s the date the Center for Science in the Public Interest has designated as “Food Day,” when they will tell us what to eat, how to produce it, and presumably, which fork to use for our salads.

CSPI bills the event as “a nationwide campaign to change the way Americans eat and think about food,” featuring activities that encourage Americans to "eat real" and support “healthy, affordable food grown in a sustainable, humane way.” I can’t wait.

In a news release issued this week, Food Day honorary co-chair Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) claims the campaign will “help foster a robust dialogue on how to promote better nutrition and health, lessen hunger and increase access to food, enhance opportunities for farm families and rural communities, and conserve natural resources.  There are,” Harkin goes on to say, “differing ideas and perspectives on these issues and surely we all benefit from discussions about the connections among food, farms, and health."

That’s true. It appears however, that the program’s planners intend for that “dialog” to be strictly one-sided, as the same news release contains their manifesto of “central goals,” including the following:

  • “Supporting sustainable farms and stopping subsidies to agribusiness. Billions of federal dollars a year would be better spent helping environmentally conscious family farmers than huge agribusiness operations.”
  • “Expanding access to food and alleviating hunger.  Far too many Americans don't know where their next meal is coming from, or have access to fresh produce in their neighborhood.”
  • “Reforming factory farms to protect animals and the environment.  Farming of animals can and should be done without cruelty, and without degrading the quality of life in rural America.”
  • “Curbing junk-food marketing to kids.  Food companies should not be targeting children with foods that promote tooth decay, obesity, and other health problems.”

So get ready for a heaping helping of rhetoric about how small, local, natural, free-range, warm and fuzzy are the only sustainable solutions for food production, and a steaming platter of agricultural advice from wealthy suburbanites who’ve never stepped foot on a farm.

I hope Senator Harkin’s call for dialog plays out, because we need to inject a little reality into this debate. Food and feed prices have jumped to record levels this year, as supplies lag behind global demand in spite of dramatic advances in agricultural productivity. This week the U.S. Grains Council projects that China’s 2011 corn imports could double or triple those projected earlier as demand skyrockets. Corn futures are topping $8 per bushel. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization meanwhile projects food production will need to double to feed 9 billion people by 2050, and do so with shorter supplies of water, fertilizer and agricultural land.

If CSPI and the sponsors of Food Day have viable ideas for addressing these issues, we’ll all be interested to hear them. A good place to start would be, a blog sponsored by Elanco Animal Health providing a forum for dialog on the realities of feeding the world.

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Texas  |  April, 07, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Yes, the current solution is the only one. Even talking about anyting else is a total waste of time. Thank you Monsanto and friends for your chemical filled, petroleum based vision of agriculture. Let me riddle you this Batman? How would Rabbi Jesus farm? A guy who bought into stuff like "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING" might just be with these guys you are against. Or not?

Colorado  |  April, 07, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Drug companies and chemical companies conduct all of the research at land grant colleges. so why would anyone believe there could be an alternative to high input agriculture. The inputs will continue to escalate in price. The soil is a living breathing entity that produced plenty of biomass before modern agriculture and it is still doing it in natural systems.

April, 07, 2011 at 11:27 AM

Go back to your radical animal rights group that paid you to write this bilge.

California  |  April, 07, 2011 at 11:24 AM

IF you don't get the true nature of nutrition out to the public we will all be thinking irrationally as we lower our B12 intake by not eating meat. Then we will be a nation of overly emotional irrational idiots. Instead of waiting its time to trot out the real scientists and nutritionists who know that a meatless diet will kill infants and cause retardation in growing children. The villian in this picture was manufactured by HSUS and as a long as you allow them to spew out lies the public will not be fully informed. They already think meat makes them fat when we all know grain is used to fatten calves and fattens humans as well. A vegan diet is death to 3 out of 5 Americans as we know that 3 out of 5 cannot get protein from grain due to gluten intolerance. Its time to tell the truth and to hold our own DAY of RECKONING. With 12 million children dying in other developing countries from lack of protein this is now happening in the US for the first time due to strict vegan parents.

Dr. Mauck    
Sullivan, IL  |  April, 07, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Ron, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did not say this. The Apostle Paul wrote that in his first letter to the Corinthians, quoting Mosaic law in Deuteronomy, making the point that if God cares for his creatures, how much more he cares for people. I think both Jesus Christ and Paul want us to do all we can to feed the starving peoples of the world and that includes judicious use of chemicals in a free economy.

April, 07, 2011 at 11:58 AM

I like the local food movement- But............ it will never be able to feed the masses economically. So while building your local food movement be very careful that you are not tearing down the ONLY sustainable way to feed masses . Everyone deserves to be able to eat. Is local better? in lots of ways YES Is Commercial Ag good enough? Yes Can Commercial Ag be improved? Yes But outsiders that don't understand the whole picture do not need to be dictating how to improve it. That a sure recipe for mass hunger and destroying the economy. Is "going local" the answer for most farmers to be able to make a decent income? No Local and Commercial Ag can coexist- we don't need to destroy one to build the other.

Nebraska  |  April, 07, 2011 at 01:57 PM

Ethanol and the growing world population has pretty well removed ag subsidies. A quick check of current payments on the Environmental Working Groups site shows that the big money is going to CRP. They want to ignore that and still sing the modern agriculture needs no subsidies song. Local is fine and hopefully fun. However, for the first time in history we have the opportunity to build organic matter in the soil -- and we pretty much need chemicals and modern science to do it. The alternative is Baghdad with dust storms and 30"of rain annualy instead of the Garden of Eden.

Carole James    
Virginia  |  April, 07, 2011 at 03:28 PM

My husband and I have a small farm, for now. The EPA is fast doing away with how we can continue to raise cattle economically or at all. Folks, you need to wake up and realize that our US food chain is being methodically attacked by idiots that don't have a clue how to raise a turnip. Now it doesn't take much to raise a turnip, they crop up all by themselves sometimes. What happens when the food is gone, to other nations, nations that hate this country by the way. Who is doing this to you? The voters! If we don't watch out for our own backs, the greedy politicians will creep in and take it all away, and then say, "I didn't know that would happen..." They don't have a clue, they listen to the radicals that just like to hear themselves speak. We have to take this country back with it's farms in tact or there won't be food on the table for long.

WV  |  April, 07, 2011 at 07:32 PM

Dear John, your sarcasm and defense of the status quo is barely palatable. And your demeaning commentary regarding small producers and local producers in this and others of your editorials is enough for me to cancel my membership. At one time Drovers claimed to represent all cattle producers, even featuring a grassfed producer who was direct marketing, from time to time. Honestly you sound like the union workers in Wis. "What do you mean? Taking away our welfare?" Subsidies are welfare. I guess no one likes to be weened from the ever flowing teet of government. If corporate ag. was so efficient, why do they need subsidizing? I would think the most efficient food producers in the world could compete without their welfare check. But then again, maybe you can't and that's your real problem. The fact that more farmers are turning toward direct marketing and all the extra hassle that comes with it, and the fact that you feel threatened by it, is more of a reflection of how poorly small producers have been treated by corporate ag. Maybe you think you can survive without small farms, or by attacking them. I will pass this information along to the other beef producers in my county, whose average farm is 200 acres, yet they produced 35,000 head last year. I will let them know that you don't respect them or their method of farming. Last year, I had the joy of having the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director from BQA call me "stupid" in front 20 other beef producers for not using hormones or fed antibiotics. At that point I decided to go into direct marketing locally and doubled my income in the first year, charging grocery store prices. Next you are going to tell us, as you have previously, that it takes 3 years to finish a beef naturally on grass.

Manitoba  |  April, 18, 2011 at 02:22 PM

this comment is for Robert: I really appreciated your comments and encourage you to keep going on the path you have chosen. I also know the feeling of being belittled by others in the business who's vision is more of a conventional one. The thing is, I've managed to pay down debt and show a profit every year while many other cattle producers seem to just sit and whine in the coffe shop and point fingers for who is to blame for their problems. (ie markets or not enough government support)

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