Posted on Mon, July 12, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
5 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming, Food Justice, News, Current Events, Policy, Uncategorized,
by intern Shauna Nep
What does it take to bring real change to the food system? Does change start with the American public and the grassroots? Does change rest with the farmers who grow our food? To get where we want to be we need the support of both, and so it is important to understand the concerns of both. What are Americans most concerned about? What are farmers looking for in farm policy reform? Are there areas of common ground between Big Ag and the American people?
A national opinion survey [registration required to access] found that Americans are most concerned with how agriculture and food relates to health, rating issues of obesity, antibiotic resistance, and diet-related diabetes to be the most serious. Americans were less concerned with food being imported from abroad, most food being produced by big corporations, and feeding cows corn instead of grass.
When asked about approaches to reforming farm policy, Americans strongly supported expanding incentives to farmers who reduce pollution, and providing incentives to farmers who grow fruits and vegetables. Reducing subsidies to Big Ag got the least support.
And the farmers?
A series of interviews with production-scale commodity growers from key agriculture states [registration required to access] found they are most concerned with consolidation, the growth of ‘large corporate farms,’ agriculture becoming ‘Walmartized,’ and the improvement of crop insurance programs.
On farm policy reform, many farmers said they want to stop taking government payments, but that competition makes them hard to refuse. They supported more conservation incentives to reward farmers who take steps to reduce pollution, reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, and practice conservation tilling. They were not interested in incentives for diversifying their crops.
So where do the public and production-scale farmers see eye-to-eye, and where are the gaps? Both want to expand conservation incentives and protect the soil. However, while Americans expressed strong support for providing incentives for growers to diversify their crops to increase availability of healthy foods, these farmers were not interested. Interestingly too, most Americans did not strongly favor reducing subsidies to Big Ag, but many production-scale growers said they don’t want to be dependent on them anymore.
If real change rests with both the farmers and the public, it is crucial to find common ground. What can we do to bridge the gap? Would the public favor subsidy reform more strongly if they knew that large-scale farmers don’t want them anymore either? One thing is for sure, voices from both sides need to be heard if we hope to come together and make real change happen to our food system.
For more info:
Farms, Food and Fuel Home Page
Good Food Strategies Home Page
Good Food Strategies 2010 Farmer Interview Top Findings
Summary of 2010 National Poll: Americans’ Views of Farming, Food, and Fuel [need to register to access]
[photo courtesy of rwillock flickr creative commons]