Corporations spend much more on energy than they do on pizza and free popcorn for the company kitchens. But you and I probably spend several time smore on food than we do energy. Food, where it comes from, what's in or on it, and how we consume it are the single most important part of our life when it comes ot environmental impact. Mix in a little greed from, say, corn farmers, add some biofuel susidies and you get a real mix of agribusiness, political and environmental health issues.
There's likely to be some action on the "Farm Bill" today in Washington. This site explains how crucial the farm bill is to shaping American agriculture. We should all think of it as the food and biofuel bill. How many of our fellow Americans understand the enormous amount of cash going every year to farmers and corporations who produce the six heavily subsidized crops: corn, cotton, rice, wheat and soybeans. No subsidy for the farmer who sells organic eggs or is producing avocados, potatoes or maple sugar.
There is a move by some Senators to scrap the old farm subsidy program. This piece explains that in California, the nation's #1 ag state, only 9% of the farm products get the subsidies which are concentrated in several states of the Midwest and southeast.
One area that's getting some lip service but hasn't much political clout: organic farming and products. It will be interesting to see if more money finds its way into the farmers' markets and other oreganic-friendly sectors of agribusiness. Organic food offers two green tech advantages: fewer petrochemicals for your liver to handle. And it is often produced using far less energy and energy-intensive methods and it's not shipped all over the planet by airplace, trucked hundreds of miles or packed into gigantic sub-zero freezers for long-term storage.
How many Barbara Kingsolvers are there in America? it appears that given a chance, some Americans, like the author, will buy locally produced food. When my wife and I moved from San Francisco to smalltown Ashland, Oregon, we immediatley began shopping at the weekly Farmers' Market. We don't have to drive for half an hour or pay $15 to park our car. Four minutes drive, free parking. Many customers come with backpacks or children's wagons or on bicycles. Almost all the food and flowers are from within thirty miles of the market site.
From organic buffalo meat and poultry eggs, goat and cow cheeses, to potatoes, tomatoes and corn, the food is locally produced. No airplane rides, no quick-freezing. Low carbon footprint food. Though many of the organic producers still rely on plastic packaging. But we carry our own shopping bags (cloth) and re-use whatever sacks we have on hand. Be nice if there were a larger and permanant site for the farmers' markets. Here they use the parking lot of the National Guard Armory.
Here's information you're not likely to get from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: the top produce items if you want maximum chemical exposure. Containing the most chemicals according to foodnews.org: Worst: Peaches [its that damned fuzzy skin] 2nd worst:Apples 3 Sweet Bell Peppers 4 Celery 5 Nectarines 6 Strawberries
Kinda whet your appetite for a smart food bill outta Congress?
For update on expected Farm Bill, see this piece written Wednesday before the Senate committee vote. Seems little has changed. Top two states for ag subsidies: Texas and Iowa. Yee-hah!