Secretary of Food ?
In December, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times posed an interesting challenge to the new administration: appoint a Secretary of Food, rather than a Secretary of Agriculture. His thesis is simple: if the industrial farming lobbyists hold the government’s ear and not the millions of Americans that have to eat whatever falls within their budget range, Americans suffer, and the rich corporations survive. Is this the way food should be approached in this country? He didn’t think so, and I have to say, I agree.
A brief analysis of his position actually yields favorable support from this attorney blogger. Why? Well, let’s put the farm lobby in other terms, the way it really is. As Kristof indicates in his article, very few independent farmers have interests that are actually served by the machine that is simply known as the "Farm Lobby". Case in point: growing up, I lived in the 'burbs and as a result, I knew little, if anything, about farms, though I was a born-and-raised Missouri girl. While visiting a close friend in Wisconsin, we went to a local family dairy farm. At first, I was overcome. "Wow!" I thought. "People really do this! People actually make a living on working the land." It was a moving experience because it was the first time I could be that close to a cow who was still alive, and touch corn that was still growing. I was enchanted. Until I learned that about a decade before, the farm had to be sold to a major corporation, which shall remain nameless, in order for the family to keep the land, or be able to stay on the land, I can't remember which. Either way, the bargain sounded more like a deal with the devil. The family kept their home and received a wage in exchange for most (I’m guessing in the 90th percentile somewhere) of the total corn and dairy output. The remaining percentage could be allocated for personal use. They also mentioned a minimum level of output that the farm had to meet in order to receive their full benefits apparently. Things didn’t seem so wholesome anymore.
Couple that with the crippling costs of purchasing new land that new, young famers can’t even get into the game. They have to rent their farming property, which means they have an even smaller shot of making it on their own.
That American dream we all talk about? Those images of leathered faces working fields from dawn till' dusk, tractors running up and down the landscape? Those appear to be nothing but manufactured advertisements for a culture that accounts for a small amount of what this country has turned out to be. Upon closer inspection of the family farm in Wisconsin that I was initially so dazzled by, I learned that their resources were stretched and they always worked with the fear of losing their homes and livelihood hanging in the back of their heads as they plowed in the mid-day sun, or milked the next cow. That can’t be good for anyone. Yet we still cling to that ideal. Why?
I would like to hear from the farmers themselves. Tell me how it is. Are you an independent farmer? Or is the farm owned by a company? How do you feel about the above mentioned proposition?
I think it’s time I hear from you guys, instead of the lobbyists here in Washington, so I can make up my own mind.