Where's Food on the Next Presidential Agenda?

Unless there are chads hanging in the balance a la Campaign 2000, we’ll know before going to bed tonight who will be the next president.

(Courtesy of Grist.org)

Both candidates have talked extensively about the ailing economy, the health care crisis and the war in Iraq, and their respective platforms on these issues may well have informed your decision today at the polls. But when it comes to food, farming and agriculture, do you know where your candidate stands? Probably not.

Although too late to press the candidates, food is hardly a moot point for the next administration and is no longer going to sit quietly on the back burner, argue those close to the issue. As one Texas farmer told a reporter for Scripps Howard News Service, “As long as you put food in your mouth, have clothes on your back and you get in an automobile and turn the key and drive, you're involved in agriculture because we provide food, fiber and fuel for everyone.”

Writes Grist food editor Tom Philpott in a column last month: "Food has indeed been largely forgotten in the 2008 presidential campaign, but it may well be a major issue in its aftermath.”

In his New York Times Magazine essay, “Farmer in Chief,” an open letter to the president-elect, Michael Pollan argues why food must be on the front burner of the next president’s agenda: “Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change.”

As you take stock of your own kitchen budget, shopping habits and knowledge, what would you like the president-elect to do about food, agriculture and farming in America? If you could break bread with the next commander in chief, what would you ask or convey as it relates to your diet and grocery tab? Spinach scares, hunger or disappearing farmland? Corn for ethanol, migrant labor conditions and the future of farming? Soil conservation? (I could keep going...)

Yes, indeed, food is everyone and everything, as the farmer from Texas said. So how do we get it on the new guy's agenda?

By Kim ODonnel |  November 4, 2008; 8:55 AM ET Food Politics
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Climate cahnge really? Farmers needa Dept of Ag that doent not discriminate against small farmers and African Americans. level playing field for everyone.

And we need a pres that doent buy into the leftist's agenda of livestock is bad for the environment.

Sorry I dont want to vegan. I like meat. And I encourage my sheep to fart as often as possible in the hopes the methane cloud they creat will explode oveer a group of media elites causing fatal third degree burns!

And lets reduce the power of the sugar producers etc.

Very few Americans can afford slow food, organic etc. We need to keep food at reasonable cost for all Americans. And the last thing we need is more Green initaitves and regs that drive up the cost of food or anything else!

Posted by: omarthetentmaker | November 4, 2008 10:35 AM

I have a zillion suggestions, but I think the most important things to do are:

1. We need to reform our rules so that small and local food producers, animal and vegetable, can compete.
a. We need to reform the farm subsidies to a pre- Nixon era/Earl Butz type system (See Farming for Us All by Michael Bell) so that small farmers actually benefit and the government has a chance to recover the payments.
b. We need to reform the USDA to enact sensible rules for meat processing for small farmers who raise animals in the hundreds rather than the hundreds of thousands. I'm not suggesting that we have to even the playing field, but the small producers have to be allowed to play at all.

2. We need to hold large meat processors responsible for clean facilities so that we can take food irradiation off the table since the only purpose for irradiation is to kill the bacteria entering the food supply when the processors don't keep poop out of the meat. I'm not suggesting that we have evidence that irradiation harms food, but my personal aesthetics are to have food free of poop, sterilized though it may be.

Posted by: esleigh | November 4, 2008 12:21 PM

Wow. I've now read Michael Pollen's letter and it speaks eloquently to both the problems Americans face and to solutions that make sense to farmers and consumers both, while addressing the problems in a "big picture" way. Thanks, Kim, for the link to his essay.

Posted by: esleigh | November 4, 2008 2:41 PM

Omar: "Paying the Price of Low Prices," an essay by Steven L. Hopp, illustrates that cheap food comes from subsidies that wind up costing each household, on average, $725 annually (2007). And that number is going up as petroleum fluctuates, agricultural chemical cleanups increase, etc.

It has nothing to do with "green initiatives" or "leftist agendas." I have better things to do with $725, don't you?

Posted by: con-e | November 4, 2008 3:44 PM

esleigh, run for office!!

Posted by: con-e | November 4, 2008 3:57 PM

Our "food" issue is going to continue in our country for some time to come given our current economic climate. We should be talking about how the average household is going to be able to even afford to buy groceries, not the "politically correct" issues that the media seems to want to focus on. I owned a very successful local restaurant for years in my hometown, only to be run out of business by skyrocketing food prices driven in large part by the oil industry's artificial manipulation of the price of a barrel of oil. I could write volumes on this country's political leaders' lack of common-sense and ignorance of what REALLY affects the average American, but what I'd rather do is offer some simple suggestions to help feed your family on a budget. I have found a seasoning that is economical to use that seems to have magical powers when I cook with it. It has cut my spices and ingredients expenses by 2/3's since I began using it. How, you ask? This single seasoning changes flavor profiles on everything I cook with it. It tastes different on steak, than it dies on chicken, than it does on pork, seafood, vegetables, etc. I can buy cheaper cuts of meats, use the seasoning on it, and WOW! I only need this one seasoning in my pantry, instead of 20+ spices that I used to have.
Go to your local grocery store and ask for
"Lawhorn's Signature Seasonings", or order it online at lawhorns.net. You will be amazed. AND, it is ALL-NATURAL and very low in sodium. You can't loose with this stuff!!! Bottom line, It will save you money. Guy Fieri's(from The Food Network fame) mom Penny swears by it!! This seasoning will change the way America cooks...

Posted by: seasoningguy | November 5, 2008 7:22 AM

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