Wednesday, October 7, 2009

None of your agribusiness

Food has been on my mind lately, so I was especially glad that Caligula's Horse weighed in on the topic.

This past Sunday, I was listening to a discussion on NPR about the state of agriculture in the United States. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was talking about how important it is for us to know where our food comes from and appreciate the effort that goes into producing it. Totally agreed.

Recently, the Obamas opened a Farmers Market here in D.C., near the White House. They billed it as an effort to promote healthy, locally-grown food. In a country where fast food is ubiquitous and obesity is a major problem (see, e.g., the bodyguard in Levi’s nutty commercial below…that can’t all be muscle), and in a world where people are suffering from hunger, we should care about producing good food and distributing it efficiently.

Some people hate big farming operations and lament the demise of the American family farm. I’m ambivalent. Big farms tend to be pretty harsh on the land they occupy, and livestock aren’t always treated well by large corporations. But big agribusiness can do a good job of finding new ways of producing a lot of food in a little space and without too many resources. Still, there seems to be a disconnect between the production of large amounts of food and the distribution of that food. We make enough food to feed the world, but people are going hungry. Low-quality, genetically-modified food may not be ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

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