Poor Taste, Indeed

This is a very good article, titled Poor Taste, on Grist debunking a recent anti-sustainable, anti-organic and anti-local food rant in The Economist that even invokes one of the chief architects of the ill-fated Green Revolution.

I mean, point well taken that creating a truly environmentally conscious and sustainable food system is NOT just limited to what you put in your grocery cart, but that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater . . . Heck, in this case, they are throwing out the entire bathtub.

4 thoughts on “Poor Taste, Indeed

  1. Voting-at-the-polls vs. voting-with-one’s-dollars is a common libertarian-ish opposition. I think this was the theme they were going for in that Economist article. Green farming supporters want the government’s money to go to small/organic/somehow-or-other-certified farmers instead of subsidizing other kinds of agriculture, but there is an alternative to both of these things: consumers themselves spending that money as they see fit, instead of the government. I”m all for supporting local farms, but I don’t think the government taking my money and funneling it through their bureaucracy machine in the general direction of farms in my county would actually accomplish that.

  2. (Dangit, the Economist article seems to have become subscription-only, so I’m going by my spotty recollections.)

    Erin, perhaps I either misunderstood the Economist article (if so, the Grist article seemed to as well) or your response to this. The Grist article, at least, said nothing about giving government money to farmers, but rather it mentioned locally investing in local infrastructure instead of relying on national government to enact carbon taxes and free trade agreements. To quote a linked article:

    “Communities, and the nation as a whole, should figure out ways to collectively leverage the passion of these growers. Not through direct payments — as with the current $14.5 billion per year subsidy boondoggle — but rather through strategic investments in food-production infrastructure. ”

    A city government (or even better, a community CSA group) investing in an accessible, permanent, transit-linked farmer’s market (like Eastern Market in DC) is a much more appropriate step than the direct federal subsidies to farmers we now see, and much more in line with the infrastructure improvements (e.g. highways and fuel subsidies) that have made industrial agriculture so profitable.

    So yes, it makes more sense to vote with dollars than at the polls, but a field pitched in favor of corporate farms can sway that vote far too easily.

  3. Well, said, Chris. And just so you know, Erin, some of your money funneled through that government bureauracracy (in this case known as the National Resources Conservation Service and the USDA) have given my farm money as a cost-share to implement conservation practices on my farm. So, there are cases in which the system is working. One of the problems in this country are the mis-applied government subsidies left over (and transformed) from the New Deal. In fact, there is a large debate going on over the current farm bill and how those subsidies might be reapplied. Basically right now, large farmers get a bunch of money they don’t need for crops that we really don’t need more of and small, family farms get little to no support. The system needs to be reworked. One way you can help as an urban dweller is to “vote” with both your pocketbook and, literally, at your polling place.

  4. Well, there’s the interesting bit. I do think it’s the place of government to invest in infrastructure, but I’m a lot less sure about moving money from individual to individual. Those New Deal subsidies are a problem now because agribusiness grew around their support; who’s to say that the same thing won’t happen to the subsidies after they’re reapplied?

    Investing in infrastructure has two advantages, as far as I can see. You spend the money once (hopefully), and it’s then open for many to derive benefit as they see fit. A third potential benefit is that it’s practical enough that community-based groups can invest on their own. (Thus the CSA groups that have formed in many communities.) That makes infrastructure unpopular in legislative circles, of course, because it can’t be used as a pork project after the initial contracts are done.

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