Tuesday, May 8, 2007

New Farm Bill Looms

image credit: eric at ology.org

Matt Stoller over at MyDD has sent out a call of sorts for people who understand food production, the economics of food production, and food policy. There's a big new farm bill coming down the pike, and my guess, based on the history of these things, is that the agribusinesses are going to get far more out of it than farmers or consumers. Traditionally, these things have been largely interesting to the food industry and Congress, with little attention from the news. As with many of these things, some attention from bloggers could help fill in this gap and make activism more effective. If you're familiar with these things and you want to help out, I suggest you e-mail Matt or sign in and leave a comment.

What's wrong with the way we grow and sell food these days? To start with, as the MyDD article points out, it has a sort of perverse economics where carrots cost more than Twinkies on a per-calorie basis. It's also becoming increasingly clear that the food inspection system needs an upgrade, though I don't remember it being this bad before the current presidential administration took power. The other thing that concerns me is that the current system encourages overproduction, which isn't terribly good for the ecology or for long term use of farmlands.

This is one of those "I'm in a hurry" posts, so I really don't have much to add to this discussion except that I agree with Matt - we all like to eat, and making our food system more responsive to consumers' needs without making farmers' lives worse can only be a good thing.

UPDATE: For some examples of how agricultural policy can affect things like poverty and ecology all around the world, check out "How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor" in this month's Foreign Affairs magazine. I'm not sure I agree with the premise that more biofuel production is necessarily bad for the poor, but it does illustrate some of the tradeoffs to any change in our agricultural policy.

No comments: