July 26, 2012
Quote of the Week:
“A cultivated mind finds sources of inexhaustible interest in all that surrounds it”
The following is an article by Bill Boyne printed in the Rochester Post Bulletin this past winter:
“[A] serious defect in the U.S. farm program involves the distribution of federal farm subsidies.
In the periods of 1995 to 2004, subsidies totaling $112 billion were given to the growers of just five crops – corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton. Operators of small farms growing vegetables and fruits received nothing.
The book ‘Food Fight’ by Daniel Imhoff gives a detailed description of the nation’s farm subsidy program. According to this book, “…three in five farmers don’t get any subsidy, while the richest 5 percent average about $475,000 each” per year. ..
The irony of this situation is that, while consumers want and need more vegetables and fruits, the small farmers who grow those crops receive no subsidies. There is no excuse for the discriminatory distribution of federal farm subsidies.
Another defect of the program is that many of the subsidy recipients are large corporations and landowners who are not even farmers. The book also states that “in 1986 a nationwide scandal erupted when the Prince of Liechtenstein had collected more than $2 million in cotton and rice subsidies (over a period of time) as an absentee land owner.”
Public health is also an issue. Locally grown organic fruits and vegetables are the most healthful foods, but they receive little attention in the nation’s farm policies. According to Imhoff, “In 2001 the Surgeon General sounded the alarm, declaring that U.S. obesity rates – double those of the early 1970’s – had reached epidemic dimensions. A year later, researchers tallied that two out of three adult Americans were clinically overweight and 31 percent of adults between 20 and 74 were medically obese (more than 100 pounds overweight).”
One reason for the obesity is that the food industry “has invested heavily in the infrastructure that turns corn and other cheap materials into ‘value added’ products.”
These products include high fructose corn syrup, “a sweetener with six times the potency of and far cheaper than sugar, over the past three decades, U.S. production of high fructose corn syrup has jumped 1,000 percent.” The excessive emphasis on corn and corn products has contributed to the spread of obesity and has had a damaging effect on public health.
Partly because of subsidies, the cost of corn-based food has dropped while the price of regionally grown fresh fruit and vegetables has risen sharply.
According to a report by the Institute for Trade and Agriculture policy in Minneapolis, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables grew nearly 40 percent between 1985 and 2000. Obviously the crops favored in the annual Farm Bill can a have big effect on the nation’s health.
The current farm program also results in unnecessarily high costs for transporting food. A 2003 study by the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota showed that conventional produce traveled an average of 1,500 miles from producer to consumer, nearly 27 times farther than the average distance (56 miles) traveled by locally grown produce.
Ken Meter, a farm expert at the Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, has written that in a seven-county southeast Minnesota region, 330,000 consumers spent “$500 million annually buying food from outside the region (of $670 million in total spent on food).”
That’s 74.6 percent for outside produce and 25.4 percent for local produce. The local economy would receive a substantial boost if those figures were reversed and everyone in the community would benefit.
Farmer Notes on this week’s delivery:
- We received more rain this last Monday!!!
- You must make pesto from this basil – or hang to dry
- Sage will dry well in a low oven setting
- So the summer squash begins – peppers and cucumbers next week
- Hooray for lower temperatures later this week
- This is the end of the red potato season
- Garlic is not cured – refrigerate and eat it up soon
- Lettuce and peas show some heat stress
- Peas are sugar snap, so the entire pod is edible
- So many tomatoes and melons are on the vine
- Beets are absolutely beautiful right now
- Return all of my ice packs please!
- Wash all produce before you eat it