Saturday, July 10, 2010

More on our Broken/Corrupt Food System

BREAKING NEWS:   I found this article right after I posted this blog.  Apparently, there is at least one man of integrity and courage in our Congress (U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, Democrat-MD).  I don't know if this is purely driven by economic necessity to cut spending, but I'll take it.  Thank you!  Write to him if you are in Minnesota's 7th Congressional District to let him know that you support his efforts. 

Here is a note about Peterson's efforts by the non-partisan "Envoronmental Working Group".


This is a continuation of an earlier post

One of the things about this whole situation is that just about everyone knows whats going on.  You talk to farmers, and they know that they are essentially slaves.  The government knows that this Farm Bill has long since passed it's intended purpose.  A lot of people understand that the "food" that our system produces is unhealthy and unnatural.   Yet the Farm Bill is overwhelmingly renewed every 5 years by our congress!

So, what's the deal?  How is it this broken system perpetuated, and how can this be changed?  I have several thoughts on this:
  1. The press is inept and unwilling to offend its advertising base.  This is just one more example of how inept and incompetent our "new media" is.  It seems that there are severla straight-forward stories about how bad the Farm Bill is...and there are many straight-line arguments about how this food system is the root cause of our obesity epidemic.  So why is there no wide-spread outrage, awareness, coverage?  For some reason, the only stories we hear are about individual farmers (the human story), but nothing about the overall story of our policies and consequences.    My pessimistic argument is that no one makes money out of reform...and a lot of their advertisers (sugary cereals, frozen foods) are adversely impacted.  So no story.  So sad.  My hope is that the networks go out of business and a future news outlet arises via the less evil tech firms like Google, Facebook...and citizen-journalists like me!  Honestly, I don't CARE that print newspapers and TV broadcasters are going out of business.  From my perspective, they provide little to no value to our society.  Good riddance!
  2. The situation is entrenched.  Unfortunately, after 50 years of "the people in power writing the laws to keep themselves in power", we are now in a situation where the key farm states have become entrenched in this system.  All the way from local governments, local judges, state governement, etc...they all depend on the funds and support of (guess who!) the big agribusinesses for reelection.  And also, it isn't in any State's best interest to give up the subsidies.  Not sure how to solve this.
  3. The system is broken and corrupt.  I don't think it's too strong of a word to use the word CORRPUT.  I don't understand why this is not stated more clearly.  Their is a clear revolving door between lobbyists, agribusiness and lawmakers (see Monsanto, which is not mentioned much, but absolutely a big player in this whole food problem).  And there really is no clear public good that I can discern.  Let's just call it what it is.  The big companies have won, and we, the taxpayers, are meant to live with it.  This is another huge reason for my Libertarian view.  I can live with my own choices, but feel RAPED when the governement spends my tax money to benefit these greedy corporations.
  4. Personal Choice and Education.  I understand that not everyone can CHOOSE to buy real food...but for those of us who can, I believe that its our duty to opt out of the entire Corn-driven food system.  This means buying local, unprocessed, organic food whenever possible.  Knowing that the system is unlikely to fix itself, we need to create enough of a competing marketplace so the "good guys" can start influencing the policy.  I'm not perfect. Every now and then, I have a Coke, or fast food, but I probably spend over 95% of my food budget on the good stuff.  Imagine if we, the numerical minority, but economic majority, made a concerted effort to stand up a thriving organic/natural food lobby.  I can't recall a past precedent at the moment, but I like to think that its possible.
  5. Hail Mary...Help me please, Obama, you are our only hope.   My only hope is that Obama understands this problem and makes a stand by vetoing (or seriously improving the Farm Bill) when if comes up again in 2013.   The fact that his wife, Michelle, is focused on solving obesity in America must mean that he too sees the connection between our health and this unhelathy food system.   He seems like a man of honor and intellectual integrity.  I hope that I'm not wrong.
p.s.  If you didn't know it, the Farm Bill represents $300B every 5 years in subsidies.

Oh yeah, for any of you in the press/media who is willing to stand for the TRUTH (if any of you actually still exist), here are a few ideas on how to educate the masses:
  1. Follow the money.  Trace a $1 of a Farm Bill subsidy and tell us where it goes, and where the profit ends up.  There should be some really informative infographic that someone can give.
  2. Follow the lobbyists.  Trace the lawmakers and USDA  appointees, their votes related to food-related issues and where they came from in relation to who actually benefits from the laws/regulations.  This probalby isn't so easy to do at a large scale, but my bet is that there are extermely easy to find examples of extreme conflict of interests.  POST THEM BELOW IF YOU KNOW OF ANY!  Maybe this blog can be the start of a public record.
  3. Follow the FAT.   I'd really be curious what % of the worst foods (that lead to obesity) are caused by these highly-subsidized foods.  e.g.  Coke -> High Fructose Corn Syrup, Chicken McNuggets -> Chicken -> Corn Feed).  

Maybe having lots of CHEAP food is KILLING US???  Show it to us with some real, courageous reporting.

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