The American Farm Bureau and the “Facts” – Intro

Because of my chosen insurance carrier I am required to pay membership dues for the Lake County Farm Bureau. As a member of the Farm Bureau I receive a copy of their monthly newsletter, Diversified Farmer. In the July 2007 episode they have a section titled “Addressing Misconceptions About Agriculture”. This section is reprints from a guide from the American Farm Bureau of the same name.

The subtitle of the July 2007 reprint in the Lake County Farm Bureau is “The only sustainable form of food production is organic”. I will get into the content of the article in a future posting but I have to say as someone supports the organic food industry with my food dollars I was incensed over the ridiculous misinformation in the article.

I’ve read a lot over the years about organic and sustainable agriculture and never have I heard any of the “facts” quoted in this piece so I decided to start digging a bit more into this and the first page I came to had this quote:

Other misconceptions have been created and fostered by groups with an anti-agriculture or anti-animal agriculture agenda. In medical terms, while people today would never consider reverting back to the practice of blood letting instead of using modern medicines to cure a disease, they would like our food production system to resemble the idyllic, romanticized rural lifestyle of the 19th century.

At the same time, people want to spend less for food, have it ready-to-eat, fresh year round and not involve any chemicals. That is an impossible order to fill, but the public is so disconnected from their food source they do not realize it would be impossible to produce today’s quality and quantity of food using 19th century methods.

Those two paragraphs contain several preposterous ideas that have to be responded to here.

They would like our food production system to resemble the idyllic, romanticized rural lifestyle of the 19th century.

I have yet to read any source that claims anyone wants a return to the rural lifestyle of the 19th century and to claim that sustainable agriculture would require such an event is ridiculous.I will get back to these points later because its important to note that the author is equating quality of food with the modern monoculture farming practice.

The second paragraph certainly gets one thing right: a great portion of the public is disconnected from their food sources. That disconnection both from the farming methods themselves as well as the subsidy systems in place in the United States, thanks to the Farm Bill, is what drives the desire for lower-cost food.

Many people simply don’t know that the “cheaper food” is heavily subsidized by the federal government thanks to their taxes. So the “savings” really is really false and hidden from the everyday view of the consumer.The author thinks however that the disconnect has something to do with the consumer not knowing that “it would be impossible to produce today’s quality and quantity of food using 19th century methods.”. The consumer does know this and fortunately 19th-century methods have nothing to do with the quality/quantity of food that comes out of the organic food industry.

It is interesting to see agribusiness responding in such a fashion to the huge growth of the organic food industry as well as the spectacular growth being seen in the number of farmer’s markets but of course it’s not surprising. It is good to see they’re afraid of the better-informed consumer.

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