Michael Pollan wrote a longish essay for the New York Times on proposed food policy to the incoming Farmer-in-Chief (whoever it may turn out to be), that outlines near-term actions that should be taken to start to reorganize the food economy to make us healthier and less dependent on large energy inputs for our agriculture. His weighty piece has been nicely summarized by Michael Ruhlman:
Here’s a quick list for those who missed his excellent memo but are curious how Pollan, who has vigorously condemned our food production system, for the first time offers potential solutions:
- Train a new generation of farmers, spread them throughout the land, and make farming a revered profession.
- Preserve every acre of farmland we have and make it accessible to these farmers.
- Build an infrastructure for a regional food economy—one that can encourage and support the farms and distribute what they grow (rebuild or create regional distribution systems).
- Provide cities grants with which to build structures for year-round farmers markets.
- Ease federal production regulations, designed to control multi-national food companies but that hog tie small producers.
- Create local meat-inspection corps so that we can create more regional slaughter facilities, perhaps the biggest impediment to our being able to find local hand raised meat. (This is huge.)
- Establish a grain reserve to prevent huge swings in commodity markets.
- Require federal institutions that prepare food (school lunches, prisons, military bases, etc.) to buy a minimum percentage of that food locally.
- Create a Federal definition of food, to encourage people to think about what is food and what is not, stuff we consume that has no caloric value (“junk food” should not be considered food).
- Food stamp debit cards should double in value when swiped at a framers’ market; give farmers’ market vouchers to low-income women and children (why does he exclude men, I wonder; a different subject perhaps).
- Make changes in our daily lives: teach children how to cook; plant gardens in every primary school and equip them with kitchens; pay for culinary tuitions (or forgive loans) by requiring culinary graduates to give some service back to such undertakings such as teaching kids how to cook; increase school lunch spending by $1 a day; grow more of our own food and prepare and eat our food together at a table; accept the fact that food may be more expensive and eat less of it.
- Make our food production system as transparent as possible: have a second calorie listing how many fossil fuel calories went into its production so that consumers could discourage production of fuel expensive food by not buying it.
- Finally, there should be a White House vegetable garden and our President should set the first example. Our founding fathers were largely farmers. This would be a good symbolic return.
I am totally behind this agenda:
[from Farmer-in-Chief by Michael Pollan]
There are many moving parts to the new food agenda I’m urging you to adopt, but the core idea could not be simpler: we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. True, this is easier said than done — fossil fuel is deeply implicated in everything about the way we currently grow food and feed ourselves. To put the food system back on sunlight will require policies to change how things work at every link in the food chain: in the farm field, in the way food is processed and sold and even in the American kitchen and at the American dinner table. Yet the sun still shines down on our land every day, and photosynthesis can still work its wonders wherever it does. If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food.
Obama, at least is listening. I can only hope that he has the sense to get Pollan involved in food policy (and Buffett on the economic mess) when he (fingers crossed) moves into the White House:
[from Swampland — The Full Obama Interview by Joe Klein]
Obama: There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy.
I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen [sic: Pollan] about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That’s just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.
Obama gets the fact that we are insecure when our food system is erected on giant energy inputs: cheap oil, and the fertilizer and pesticides that industrial agriculture needs. At core is the false bookeeping, where spewing pollution into the air and water, and consuming irreplaceable resources (oil and water) don’t figure into the costs of food. We have to get back to small scale but intensive, low input, solar-based farming. Obama seems to get most of that, and hopefully, Pollan will get some of his time in the next few months.Related articles by Zemanta