Herd About It?
by Ana Grarian
In October of 1993, The New York Times announced that the United States Census Bureau would “no longer count the number of Americans who live on farms.” Between 1910 and 1991 the farm population went from 1/3 of the population to less than 2%. Most of today’s farm workers do not live on the land they farm. We no longer have an agricultural class that is, or that can require itself to be, recognized by the government; we no longer have a “farm vote” that is going to be of much concern to politicians.
American farmers have become statistically insignificant.
I read this a few days ago and have been ruminating on it for the last few days. This report came out in 1993. How much more insignificant are we today 16 years later. Farmers never the ones with money, real power, or influence, have fallen so far under the radar that even most of our fellow citizens don’t see us as important. Someday the lesson of the importance of farmers may come home to us.
There has been recent news in the field of agriculture that impacts us all. A new dairy subsidy bill has been signed. Much of it will go to buying excess dairy products for use in school lunch programs, to reduce the surplus and hopefully stabilize prices. Some will go to direct farm aid hopefully to small family farms and not conglomerates. Bernie Sanders(I-VT) is involved so I will keep my hopes up.
In other news Obama appointed Roger Beachy as chief of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Beachy will oversee the distribution of nearly $500 million in grants and other research funding. Sustainable agriculture initiatives are likely to suffer, as research dollars are awarded to projects that promote Beachys vested interests in biotechnology. Beachy is rumored to have worked for Monsanto at the Danforth Plant Science Center. Beachy says he did not work for Monsanto but did receive research grants from them.
Islam Siddiqui, the VP of Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife USA, was nominated to the post of Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representatives office. This is the same guy who found fault with Michelle Obama for her organic garden at the White House. His new post is designed to use free trade agreements to open up foreign markets for U.S. agriculture goods in the past, mostly to promote chemical-intensive, genetically modified products that undermine local food cultures in developing countries.
I don’t see any help for small, sustainable, family farms from these positions. I guess sustaining families, healthy food, and the environment, are insignificant.