I have to admit that I waiver between completely withdrawing from any news about the food industry and Big Brother Ag, and being drawn to the train wreck of conspiracy theory that is slowly unraveling.
This week, however, there have been so many disheartening pieces of information affecting my local foodshed and farmers that I could not stay under my rock. If you think it’s hard to find small family farmers and local, affordable food now, just wait another year.
From the FSMA to the large number of insurance companies currently refusing coverage for vegetable growers in wake of wide-spread spinach recalls, to proposed bills that could put small, local dairies out of business (5139), to self-righteous agendas (HB 1201/SB 5203) which would make animal sales or barters illegal and possibly have the effect of eliminating on farm sales of meat animals (currently the only way small farmers stewarding livestock and land can work around the lack of local access to USDA licensed slaughter facilities.)
According to the FDA, “FSMA is the most sweeping reform of FDA’s food safety authority in more than 70 years. This act gives FDA new and enhanced mandates and authorities to protect consumers and promote public health.”
It is also poised to put many small, local farmers out of business. You can bet this is already affecting your local CSA farmers, small market farmers, and even farmers who are only selling produce on-farm. These farms are only excluded if they generate less than $25,000 of income per year from all income sources. How many hard working farm families do you think could comfortably live on less than $25,000 per year?
Given the recent and alarming trend of insurance agencies suddenly dropping coverage for produce farmers, the FSMA may not have the chance to put them out of business anyway.
Our local foodsheds hang in the balance right now.
But our existing model of agriculture cannot be sustained so this will soon be a moot point. Even local, mono-cropped farms are contributing to our woes. I urge you to watch the video A Farm for the Future” and consider if you think we are making sufficient changes in our own kitchens to correct this situation.
In the face of all this disheartening news, I cannot help but remember my favorite Jess post called “The Floaty Brigade”. Are you floating in the water, or still on the cruise ship?
What I don’t see in all of this are realistic solutions to grow the amount of food we will need to displace our current food systems. I don’t see a large enough re-educational process happening amongst consumers and those responsible for feeding their families. I don’t see an emphasis on shifts in diet away from mono-cropped foods grown using precious oil reserves to truly sustainable foods. And realize that what is sustainable will vary in every region of the world.
Instead I see corporate green washing, national and state legislation, insurance companies and multinational corporations on the verge of destroying small truck gardens/family ranchers/fertile agricultural lands/water supplies/biodiverse seed stores, and reprogramming the way we taste, experience, consume, purchase and waste foods.
Policies surrounding health care, real estate, wetlands, tax incentives, food and farm subsidies, small farmer education initiatives, educational institutes and research facilities, the restaurant industry, the processed food industry, and consumer demand all need to change and they need to change yesterday.
Yes, permaculture will be part of the solution, but creating successful ecosystems is such a complex job that even mastering the theory is not enough to successfully farm on the level required to replace grocery store shelves and freezers. And especially difficult when it is removed from every process mentioned in the paragraph above.
I have not seen the big picture solution yet that we need to stave off genetically modified crops and meats along with their threat to native plants and animals, or the loss of the final rainforest and coral reef.
If this was a family problem, we could all sit around the table, point to how each is affecting the whole, and come up with solutions. But there are so many disparate players with conflicting goals involved that it will take tough and forceful resolution by a central ruling body to even get the conversation started.
I urge each and every one of you who eats (yes, that means YOU) to take this, the ultimate challenge. But direct from local, small farmers. Watch the videos, read the articles, contact your senators and congressmen, sign the petitions, and teach your children well.
This mess is going to be their inheritance but only we can save it.