Los Angeles Times: The facts about food and farming
Let's not join one of the armed camps deeply suspicious of one another shouting past each other.
One of the more pleasing developments of the last decade has been the long-overdue beginning of a national conversation about food -- not just the arcane techniques used to prepare it and the luxurious restaurants in which it is served, but, much more important, how it is grown and produced.
The only problem is that so far it hasn't been much of a conversation. Instead, what we have are two armed camps deeply suspicious of one another shouting past each other (sound familiar?).
On the one side, the hard-line aggies seem convinced that a bunch of know-nothing urbanites want to send them back to Stone Age farming techniques. On the other side, there's a tendency by agricultural reformers to lump together all farms (or at least those that aren't purely organic, hemp-clad mom-and-pop operations) as thoughtless ravagers of the environment.
Well, at least we're thinking about it, so I suppose that's a start. But the issues we're facing are not going to go away, and they are too important to be left to the ideologues. What I'd like to see happen in the next decade is a more constructive give-and-take, the start of a true conversation.
With that goal in mind, I'd like to propose a few ground rules that might help move us into the next phase -- fundamental principles that both sides should be able to agree on.
* Agriculture is a business. Farming without a financial motive is gardening. I use that line a lot when I'm giving talks, and it always gets a laugh. But it's deadly serious. Not only do farmers have expenses to meet just like any other business, but they also need to be rewarded when they do good work. Any plan that places further demands on farmers without an offsetting profit incentive is doomed to fail.
* What's past is past. Over the last 50 years, American farmers performed an agricultural miracle, all but eliminating hunger as a serious health issue in this country. But that battle has been won, and though those gains must be maintained, the demands of today -- developing a system that delivers flavor as well as quantity and does it in an environmentally friendly way -- are different. ...