An open letter to farmers big and small, sustainable or not

Dear farmers,

I’ve read a lot about how none of you want cuts to federal farm subsidies or programs. I’m betting no one whose federal budget is on the chopping block right now wants their funding to go, but the extreme nature of the budget crisis means that something is, by definition, going to have to go.

My proposal to all of you is that we be the ones who stand up and say, “We don’t need the money.”

You see, from my point of view as a small farmer just getting started on the sustainable agriculture journey, the reason we have such a hard time making money and getting our message out as farmers is because so much of the money and so much of the message is controlled by the government. Because the government controls the money and the message, we farmers have very little control over how the money gets spent and what gets said.

For those of us who have decided to go it alone, the experience is quite different. I know from first hand experience what kind of money can be made and what kind of message can be put out there by a single farm. People are hungry–literally and figuratively–for what we are doing and they want more. In the next few years, unless something dramatically changes for us, our farm will be paying for itself without the benefit of a single government subsidy or program.

How is this possible? Because I, and those who work on and support my farm, understand that farming is a calling and a lifestyle, not just a job. I am my farm, and because of that, I care very deeply about what happens to it. Therefore, I am willing to put in the kind of blood, sweat, and tears that a mere job could never demand.

Now, is that kind of commitment for everyone? Of course not. Yet, I cannot help but notice that, if your’re not willing to make that kind of commitment, then what are you doing?

For those of us who are willing, the path leads away from the government. We don’t need government sponsored local food programs. We don’t need government price supports for commodity crops. We don’t need government rules telling us what, when, where, and how to plant.

What we need is our own determination and perseverance, and in a few years using those things, we would be free to do the thing we have come to know and love.

So let’s stop this dependence on the government and start our own independence based on the merits of our own effort.


Anti-obesity programs miss the point

There has been a lot of news recently about government led anti-obesity programs targeted especially at children and the poor. These programs go after things like fried foods and soda, and in my opinion, they all miss the mark because they fail to go after the main culprit of why Americans have become so fat.

The problem isn’t frying, or soda, or candy, per se. The problem is corn.

Before the 1950s, corn represented a small fraction of the total American diet. Then, as science realized it could process all sorts of things out of corn and government subsidies kept corn prices artificially low, the presence of corn in food skyrocketed, and American waistlines began to grow. Now, some products consumed by Americans–when did food become a product?–come entirely from corn derivatives, including the packaging itself.

What is wrong with this corn explosion? It represents a successful attempt by scientists and the government to reduce nutrition and food below its natural complexity. While the food industry, its scientists, the government, and government scientists all try to claim that corn based food products are essentially the same as non-corn-based ones, the devil is in the detail of the use of the term “essentially”.

What essentially refers to is the absence of thousands of trace nutrients in corn-based products, the fact that corn sugar is not the same as other naturally occurring sugars, and that corn based products contain excessive amounts of certain kinds of nutrients. Essentially means that, while 90 percent of corn-based processed food looks like its naturally produced counterpart, the devil lies in the 10 percent difference.

So, what should government led anti-obesity programs do? Try banning corn-based food products in favor of their natural alternatives. Instead of banning people from using food stamps to buy soda–why pick that arbitrary food when almost everything in the average food assistence shopping cart contains High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) anyway–why not limit these people to buying products that do not contain HFCS?

Why? Because the government and industry scientists will insist that there is no nutritional difference between HFCS and other kinds of sugar, which is a blatant lie. Any freshman in biology can tell you that there are all kinds of nutritional differences between HFCS and other sugars, including how the body digests them, what preference it shows them, and how likely one is to be stored as fat versus another.

What remains is that government led anti-obesity programs are an attempt to obfuscate a problem the government helped create to begin with. If the government really wants to reduce the occurrence of obesity in America, end the subsidy of corn. With the end of that subsidy, food product manufacturers will have no choice but to use healthier alternatives in their products, and frankly, most processed foods will cease to exist because they rely so heavily on corn to exist at all.