11 September 2009

Foodie Friday: Food Is Power

Graphic from the Environmental Working Group.

The Carbon Trade
By Janet Gilles / The Rag Blog / September 11, 2009

Seventy percent of the farm subsidy goes to just a small number of states in the upper Mississippi River basin, where farmers are advised to put ten times the amount of nitrates their crops need onto the ground, because most of it will not be held by this land that has received no mulch in a long time.

Mulching puts carbon into the ground, plowing opens the earth and puts the carbon into the atmosphere. The Obama administration is working to change the way farmers are paid. If you saw the movies, Food Inc. or King Corn, you might remember that this type of farming is a big money loser, but the government subsidies make it profitable.

Thus, the government pays to pollute the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The United Nations Environmental Group says nitrate pollution is the greatest threat to our fisheries world wide.

In exchange for cheap corn fed beef, fish, chicken, and pork, which have little nutritional value as the animals are no longer getting the rich assortment of greens from their natural diet, we are killing the wild fish.

Right now, farmers are paid for the number of acres under cultivation for “commodity crops”, which are crops that go to a manufacturer, such as Archer Daniels Midlands, before they go to the table.

Real foods, fruits and vegetables and nuts, are not subsidized. In fact, if a farmer getting his $200,000 a year for growing soy or corn decides to grow a few acres of food for the table (specialty foods in the legislation), say he decides to grow some tomatoes, he loses his entire $200K.

No more crop rotation. Only industrial agriculture gets the subsidy.

This is set in stone, even Doggett voted for it, Nancy Pelosi got it through.

Vilsack proposes carbon trading to revive real farming, the kind that puts carbon into the ground, and has been going around speaking to farmers groups to explain to them that a new way to make money is afoot.

The Rodale Institute has been fighting industrial agriculture since the fifties, when the FBI fought to stop the publication of his books by telling the publisher he was a Communist, forcing him to self publish. At that time, he was demonstrating that heart disease was skyrocketing with the advent of large quantities of corn fed beef. The government was trying to help the defense industry move over to a civilian use of their nitrate explosives which became fertilizer, and their nerve gas, which became herbicides and pesticides.

The Rodale Institute recently has published studies, along with Cornell University, showing that organic farming sequesters substantial amounts of Carbon, far more even than anything else imagined, including the far out seeding of the clouds and so on.
US agriculture, according to Rodale, Cornell University, and the Agricultural Research Service have collaborated to develop estimates of carbon sequestration in soils with organic methods.

U.S. agriculture releases 750 million tons of CO2 annually into the atmosphere. Converting all US grasslands to organic production would eliminate agriculture’s massive emissions problem. In fact, 811 million tons would be sequestered.

If just 10,000 medium sized farms in the US, or 2% of the total farmed area, converted to organic, they would store the equivalent of taking 1,174,400 cars off the road.

Our health experts say we can never solve the health crisis in this country so long as the government subsidizes junk foods. Carbon trading will subsidize organic and local and the giant mid-western soy and corn producers will be out of business, along with the manufacturers who cater to them.

Right now, the US Government pays 5 billion dollars a year, or $160 a person, to subsidize junk food (commodities in the legislation). If we took that money and subsidized local organic, that would be $160 million dollars a year in a city the size of Austin, Texas.

Organic fruits and vegetables would be cheap and abundant, and junk food would be effete and expensive.

Here’s what Rodale has said about Agriculture Secretary Vilsack:

Like Nixon to China, Vilsack reshaping USDA landscape

Few of his contemporaries expected President Richard M. Nixon to break with Cold War politics and open full diplomatic relations the People’s Republic of China in 1972. Because he was playing against type (a moderate Republican reaching out to a staunchly Communist regime), he had credibility that a more liberal leader could not have mustered. The breathtaking move stunned conservatives, as it largely jettisoned ideology for more pragmatic considerations in U.S.-China relations.

We’re on the cusp of a similarly noteworthy shift in the posture of the USDA under its new secretary, Tom Vilsack of Iowa. Initially dismissed by many progressive food and farming activists as a tool of corporate agribusiness, the new leader is making waves several times a day in what is starting to feel like a tsunami of positive change. Consider these items:

On February 5, Vilsack says he wants to expand farmers' choices to include opportunities in energy—such as wind, solar and geothermal power—and in the growing market for organic and whole foods.

On February 21, Vilsack makes his first visit to a farm group outside Washington, addressing 300 farmers and agriculture professionals at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund’s Georgia Farmer’s Conference. He said he wanted to send a message that the USDA is serious about civil rights issues. He admitted that “some folks refer to USDA as’ the last plantation,’ and it has a pretty poor history of taking care of people of color.”

On February 24, Vilsack announces that Kathleen Merrigan will be his deputy secretary, putting the person who drafted Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 into the Department’s number 2 position.

On February 25, Vilsack is “called out” for skipping the 2009 Commodity Classic in Grapevine, Texas—the annual pow-wow of conventional corn, soybean, sorghum and wheat growers and agri-business powers. The official blog of Hoosier Ag Today radio quoted an American Soybean Association officer as saying of Vilsack: “Even though he is from the state of Iowa, he has a tendency not to lean towards truly production and modern agriculture, and we have to work on that.”

On February 26, Vilsack says cuts to U.S. farm commodity payments will be directed at farmers and ranchers with large incomes and big sales, and could affect 3 percent of U.S. farmers.

Do you feel the earth moving yet? Commodity lobbyists are already swarming Capitol Hill to hogtie their Congressional friends, but the horse of food policy change seems to be out of the barn. However, it will be a long, hard run. If you don’t have a trusted group advocating for organic and sustainable agricultural decisions on your behalf, now is the time to engage one.

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