THE ECONOMIC PAMPHLETEER: Food Sovereignty: New Mandate for Food and Farm Policy
The historical justification for farm policy and other public policies related to agriculture has been food security. Contrary to current indications, farm policies should serve the common interests of the public rather than the individual interest of farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food security as "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life" (USDA-ERS, 2014, para. 1). Unfortunately, the emphasis of both farm and food policy in the U.S. has been to providing enough "calories" to support active lifestyles, while placing little emphasis on health. USDA nutrition programs focus on education, clearly placing the responsibility for healthy diets on informed consumers rather than caring politicians.
Early U.S. farm policies emphasized keeping enough socially responsible family farmers on the land to produce enough healthful food to meet the basic needs of all. However, the priorities of farm policies shifted during the 1960s and '70s to focus on increasing agricultural productivity. Lower agricultural production costs were expected to result in lower retail food prices, making enough healthful food affordable for everyone. The farm policies of choice consistently promoted the industrialization of agriculture: specialization, standardization, and consolidation into fewer, larger farming operations. The message sent to farmers by this "cheap food policy" was to either "get big or get out."...
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