The Dernogalizer

June 21, 2009

Reforming Agriculture

I read a very good column in the NY Times about the linkage between our industrial agriculture system and our health care costs.  It’s no secret that a lot of the food we eat isn’t good for us and leads to a lot of the health problems which are responsible for a good chunk of our health care costs.  I remember back in elementary school when I bought lunch at my school cafeteria, and the food was very greasy, and never healthy.  In middle school and high school the food was so unhealthy I just brought a lunch every day.  There’s also the impact it has on our greenhouse gas emissions.  There’s also the effect on climate legislation, as a single bought out Chair Collin Peterson of the Agriculture Committee in the House has been able to delay, and possibly derail the Waxman-Markey climate bill.  One part of the column which sums it up is

“Agribusiness companies exercise huge political influence, and industry leaders often fill regulatory posts. The Food and Drug Administration consequently dozed, and the number of food safety inspections plunged.”

Despite a desire by the Obama administration to move away from the disaster that’s corn ethanol towards more sustainable and logical biofuels, farm state lawmakers have been fighting them like hell, even though incentives for corn ethanol production is clearly terrible policy.  As a concession, 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol already produced are being “grandfathered in”, and the farm state legislators are still complaining, which is one of the reasons Collin Peterson is causing trouble with the climate legislation.  This experience with the sway big agriculture has on Congress raises doubts on whether reforming the industrial agriculture system is even possible.  From an emissions standpoint, farmers have shown they can cut cows greenhouse gas emissions for no additional cost simply by altering their diet.  Simply using more efficient machinery and powering those systems with more clean energy would go a long way.  It would also be a good idea to produce fruit and vegetables using methods which require less pesticides such as integrated pest management, less water such as using drip irrigation.  If you want to see some thought provoking videos that shows the state of our food system, I’d recommend King Corn, or the new documentary Food Inc.

Also interesting is the positive role agriculture could have on addressing global warming if done right.  In one of my posts titled “8 Reasons for Farmers to Support Waxman-Markey”, this was one of the reasons listed:

“U.S. agricultural and forest lands sequester 246 million metric tons of carbon annually, absorbing 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. With the appropriate incentives these lands could ultimately absorb 50 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. H.R. 2454 promotes U.S. agricultural lands as a carbon sink by encouraging low tillage practices, tree and perennial planting, erosion prevention, rotational grazing, agricultural carbon offsets, and a market for carbon sequestration.”

It does seem to be a heavy lift, but there should be a much harder look given to begin reforming agriculture so that it serves people, not just corporations, and betters our society, not just their bottom line.  It would also go a long way to addressing our health care and climate problems.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: