Saturday, January 8, 2011
Are we having a food crisis? Who's to blame?
My mom read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan a month or so ago and it's on my list, too. My husband brought home Food, Inc. the other night and we watched it. Are we having a food crisis? My mom is on a histamine free diet so she can survive at night without taking drugs (histamine triggers allergic reactions, thus the class of drugs called anti-histamines). Did you even know there's histamine in foods? It's mainly the additives and preservatives she can't handle.
Did you realize that not only are we having to fight superbugs in our hospitals (like MRSA, methicillin resistant staph), but that we're also fighting superbugs in our meat packing plants and chicken farms? What are the implications? Do we have to move out to the country and raise our own cattle and chickens to feel good about safely feeding our families?
What about corn? Is it mostly genetically modified now? Does that matter?
I don't have the answers, but one thing is painfully obvious to me. The same culprit that contributed to both the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in the 1930s is causing this food crisis. One guess. Yes, that's right, it's our government.
The Federal Farm Loan Act made low interest loans to farmers to encourage the tilling up of the land and the Federal Bureau of Soils proclaimed the inexhaustability of the prairie grassland. That coupled with the increased efficiency of farming brought about by the invention of the tractor and other farm equipment meant that more land was being farmed than ever before by the 1920s. Then as wheat prices began to fall at the end of the 1920s, farmers tilled up even more land hoping to make the same amount despite lower prices by selling more bushels. Hoover decided government intervention was needed so he established the Federal Farm Board which pegged the price of wheat at 80 cents a bushel and cotton at 20 cents a bushel. The Farm Board accomplished this price fixing by buying up huge quantities of wheat and cotton, which ended up killing our export of these crops since our prices were higher than world prices. Meanwhile, all this turning over of the prairie coupled with drought brought about the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
FDR arrived on the scene in 1933 on his white horse and along with the NRA immediately passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). According to Timothy Egan of The Worst Hard Time, "Free-market agricultural economics was over, for good." (p. 133) Here's how the AAA worked: "First, some farmers would be paid not to produce on their land; second, farm prices would be pegged to the purchasing power of farm prices in 1910; third, millers and processors would pay for much of the cost of the program. What's more, power would be centralized through the secretary of agriculture, who would set the processing taxes, target the price of many commodities, and tell farmers how much land to remove." (New Deal or Raw Deal p. 60 by Burton Folsom, Jr.) Due to the crop shortages encouraged by the AAA, by 1935 the US had become a major food-importing nation for the first time in its history and we're still reeling from the continued effects of the AAA.
Did you know that Mrs. Butterworth's maple syrup doesn't contain any maple syrup? Did you know that it's made largely from corn? And did you know the reason it's so cheap is because the government subsidizes the cost of raising corn to artificially lower its price? Guess how much real maple syrup costs. Ouch. About 4 X more than the cheap stuff.
Again, I don't have all the answers, but I sure wish the government would butt out of agriculture and let the free-market determine prices. Then maybe it would become economical someday for real maple syrup to compete against corn. Groceries might cost more in the short-run, but in the long-run prices would equalize and we would have a healthier food supply.
Why is it that everything the government touches gets screwed up, but the government continues to stick its fingers into everything it can anyway?
Are we ready for the government to take over our healthcare system next like it already has our food system?
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.