The Politics of Food

A look into the politics of food makes it clear how and why Americans no longer have the right to grow and eat whatever they want.

| March 2014

  • When corn became subsidized, farmers began overproducing it in the same way they had wheat and cotton. To find a market for all that extra corn, the United States began producing massive amounts of inexpensive high fructose corn syrup.
    Photo by Fotolia/Jeno
  • In 'Food Tyrants' Nicole Faires recounts her family's adventure to America's small farms expecting to find inspiration. What she found was mismanaged land and clueless urban farmers along with the manure-like scent of a corporation-laced industry. Using examples from her own life and offering a brief history of food security, Faires explains how the food in our plate is no longer "in our hands."
    Cover courtesy Skyhorse Publishing

Consumers should be concerned about where their food comes from. In Food Tyrants (Skyhorse Publishing, 2013), homesteader and writer Nicole Faires opens our eyes to a wide-scale problem that isn’t going away. With hands-on knowledge and a new view of the American farmer, Faires suggests the answer lays in the soil and provides the information necessary to make informed, healthy food choices. The following selection, from Chapter 1, offers a glimpse into the politics of food that run America.

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“I saw all the people hustling early in the morning to go into the factories and stores and the office buildings, to do their job, to get their check. But ultimately it’s not office buildings or jobs that give us our checks. It’s the soil. The soil is what gives us the real income that supports us all.”
—Ed Begley, Jr.

The Abridgement of Freedom

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
—James Madison

You may not realize it yet, but you do not have the legal right to grow and eat anything that you want, and food has become a very complex issue. However, this right was not lost overnight, because originally food was not political. Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution would have included agriculture if any of the founding members or later leaders believed that the government had any say in the matter. Our relatively young food “industry” was still safe in the 1920s, when President Coolidge vetoed a complex price-fixing bill for various crops. He said, “I do not believe that upon serious consideration the farmers of America would tolerate the precedent of a body of men chosen solely by one industry who, acting in the name of the Government, shall arrange for contracts which determine prices...Such action would establish bureaucracy on such a scale as to dominate not only the economic life but the moral, social, and political future of our people.”

These politics of food he meant to avoid, however, is now a staple of most of the food industry legislation in America today. Only ten years after Coolidge, Hoover introduced the Farm Board, which fixed the price of wheat and cotton. The Farm Board had good intentions, but its policies had far-reaching consequences. If the price of wheat or cotton dropped too low, the government would step in and buy it at the fixed price. This relative financial security convinced many farmers to start producing wheat and cotton, and pretty soon they had too much of it. Supply far outstripped demand. That’s when President Roosevelt created the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Rather than paying farmers too much for a worthless crop, the government now paid them not to grow wheat or cotton. By that logic, any business that got into trouble by poorly estimating the market should be “bailed out” and paid to prevent stupidity. But this only applied to farmers.

4/5/2014 8:17:21 PM

If only this information was on CNN or where ever the rest of the nation gets its news. Utne you are preaching to the choir. I am always amazed when people don't know how to feed themselves but I can attest to the fact that it is no longer common knowledge.

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