Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Farm Policy Should Be Food Policy

One of my goals as an educator has been to encourage better communication and better understanding between agricultural and non-agricultural communities, and a recent focus has involved farmers and non-farm consumers.  Agricultural law has sometimes developed in a vacuum, with the understandable, but myopic goal of increased productivity of a limited number of crops. I wrote an article questioning this approach, A Reconsideration of Agricultural Law: A Call for the Law of Food, Farming, and Sustainability, published in the William & Mary Journal of Environmental Law & Policy.

I have been pleased at the response to the article, and I was asked to do a blog post for the Institute of Food Technologists on this theme.  Here, reprinted with permission from the IFT ePerspective, Farm Policy Should Be Food Policy are my thoughts.

America’s history includes a rich tradition of agricultural productivity, and we have all benefited from it. Agricultural laws and policies have supported that productivity, recognizing the special attributes of agricultural production and the public interest involved in promoting food security.

Along the way, however, public interest has often taken a back seat to special interest. Farm policy has driven food policy, and farmers have been encouraged to farm in ways that are not sustainable, sometimes producing crops that do not contribute to our health, preserve our environment, or strengthen our regional economies.

It’s time for a reconsideration of U.S. agricultural policy. The seemingly unrelated problems of deficit spending, the obesity epidemic, environmental degradation, poverty, and rural decline should all be considerations when crafting agricultural policy going forward. These problems highlight a critical connection—one that we too often forget—between agricultural policy and our need for a sustainable food system.

For many years, our farm policy has been focused on providing economic and political support for the agricultural sector. It has included financial support and special treatment under the law, termed, “agricultural exceptionalism.” It is time for both to be reconsidered, with an eye toward a policy that reconciles the public good of society with the self-interest of farmers.

Read the rest of the post at ePerspective -


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