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The Health Of America Starts On The Farm

English: Description: Concentrated animal feed...
English: Description: Concentrated animal feeding operation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Mark Bittman makes the point in his column at the New York Times today, that the biggest killer of Americans isn’t guns but industrial agriculture. A point I have made repeatedly with my family over the years.

…the root of that dangerous diet is our system of hyper-industrial agriculture, the kind that uses 10 times as much energy as it produces.

We must figure out a way to un-invent this food system. It’s been a major contributor to climate change, spawned the obesity crisis, poisoned countless volumes of land and water, wasted energy, tortured billions of animals… I could go on. The point is that “sustainability” is not only possible but essential: only by saving the earth can we save ourselves, and vice versa.

via Fixing Our Food Problem –

Fixing Our Food Problem - - Google Chrome 5312015 53105 PM

Mark’s point, in the article, is that to change these thing will take time. He compares the fight to a long list of social changes in the past few centuries. And he is right…It will take time. It will also cost each of us. Both time and money will have to be invested in order to fundamentally change the way we produce our food.

You would think that something that isn’t even a generation old could be changed more easily than that. But the reality is there is a lot of money being made in the way or food policy has evolved. And the only real way that will change is if the ones’s making the money are forced to take responsibility for the consequences of their money making shortcuts. As long as the cost of our policies are passed on to the end consumer, and bad health is one of the major costs, nothing about the way we produce our food will ever change.

This isn’t something I blame on farmers, either… Most farmers don’t profit that much from the “real” food produced in America. But then again, I don’t consider the owners and managers of CAFOs or commodity growers to actually be farmers. They are just factory workers in a different type of factory… A food factory. And like the industrialization of other industries, the industrialization of farming has led to a host of abuses… Many of which we haven’t even become aware of yet.

Mark Bittman’s call for patience is probably the right one… But patience is a virtue we may find hard to live with if our food keeps making us sick…

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5 thoughts on “The Health Of America Starts On The Farm”

  1. And I would add that tax policy needs to be crafted to protect non-corporate farming. Inheritance taxes can destroy family farms. A million dollar net worth? Add up land, out-buildings, equipment and so on, and it’s extraordinarily easy to rack up a net worth in the millions. If the next generation has to sell the farm to pay the taxes upon a parent’s death – the cost so far outweighs the benefit it’s breathtaking.

    I know what was proposed, but I don’t know yet what ended up passing. If the rum producers, Hollywood and NASCAR get their goodies and the farmers took a hit, I think my head is going to explode.

    1. Hey Linda, I keep hearing the argument that the estate tax would hurt family farms and small businesses, but no one has ever offered examples…I did fin this online…

      Very few family farms and small businesses are affected by the estate tax. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that with a $2 million exemption, only 123 farms per year in the U.S. would owe any estate tax, and the number of small businesses is similarly small. In 2001, the New York Times reported that American Farm Bureau Federation (who was in favor of repealing the estate tax) could not cite a single case of a family farm lost due to the estate tax.

      On average, those few small business and farm estates will owe only 14 percent of the estate, so it is unlikely they will have to sell the business or farm. Plus, they can spread any payments over 14 years. They also benefit from special use valuation, and minority interests and marketability discounts.

      Moreover, gutting the estate tax would actually hurt family farms. The estate tax helps make family farms more competitive against mega-scale agriculture, because it moderates ever-larger concentrations of wealth and economic clout. Repeal of the estate tax or exempting farms completely will only encourage further concentration of farm ownership, which reduces competition. An unlimited exemption for farm assets could create a giant loophole from the estate tax because wealthy individuals who expect to owe estate tax could use much or all of their wealth to buy farms before they died.

      via Estate Tax FAQs | United for a Fair Economy.

      I tend to lean more progressive in the tax department. And from what I’ve always seen, the rates we had back pre-Bush worked pretty good. I was almost willing to risk the cliff just to see the field leveled a bit once more…But it didn’t happen.

      1. Well, yes. But the folks you’re quoting are in favor of raising estate taxes across the board. I don’t have time now to search them out, but there are plenty of agricultural organizations who take quite a different view. As I understand it, much of the anxiety has been about the proposed changes – a lowering of the exemption to $1M. I’ll see what I can find later.

        In any event – it’s an important issue, and the article you linked is good.

        1. I suppose that’s the problem. The Farm Bureau and others are always talking about the farms that would have to sell to pay the taxes, The CBO and others say it isn’t so. The CBO is supposed to be non-partisan, but that point is debated daily in the press (by one side at least).

          My problem is that our farm policy, which is also our food policy, tends to be aimed at helping the same folks that our tax policy favors. And while I am sure most of those folks would fill the hit from a change in inheritance taxes, I don’t think very many would qualify (at least in most peoples eyes) as family farmers…Just my opinion on that one…

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