[permaculture] (USA) Ag policy's world focus has left a gap at home

brent at gp.org brent at gp.org
Tue May 17 16:23:50 EDT 2011

A glimpse into the growing crisis of Big Ag:

The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
May 14, 2011
Ag policy's world focus has left a gap at home

A column by Alan Guebert

Squeeze almost any official of almost any agbiz or farm group and the
words “Feed the world” will cross their lips. This is a cornerstone of our
export-directed ag policy.

But this ambition, according to the number-crunching crew in Daryll Ray's
ag shop at the University of Tennessee, has been more of a mission
statement than a mission accomplished.

Writing in an early April “Policy Pennings” column, Ray notes that the
combined 2010/11 U.S. exports for barley, corn, oats, rice and wheat “at
88.0 million tonnes (is) 82.4 percent of the 106.8 million tonnes of grain
exports in the 1980/81 crop year.”

Yes, we're exporting 18 percent less of the Big Five grains today than 30
years ago.

When soybeans are added to the export numbers, Ray notes, 1980/81 sales of
the six rise to “126.5 million tonnes (while) 2010-11 projected exports
are 131.3 million tonnes.”

So, U.S. exports of the Big Five and soy did increase over 30 years but
only by “3.8 percent from the beginning to the end of the 30-year period,”
says Ray.

This worldly focus, however, has food and nutrition consequences at home,
suggests Angie Tagtow, an Iowa-based registered dietician and public
health researcher.

For example, she notes, the 1978 U.S. Ag Census showed 50 percent of all
Iowa farms grew hogs, 60 percent grew cattle, 56 percent grew hay and 34
percent grew oats. The 2002 Census showed these segments, respectfully, at
12, 33, 36 and 8 percent.

Taken across the nation, Tagtow explains, the 30-year shift to commodities
means “We're not growing enough ‘healthy' food to meet minimum federal
guidelines for a healthy diet.”

Tagtow and fellow dietitian Susan Roberts examined what this food policy
means for Iowa, a state of agricultural bounty but not agricultural
diversity. Their discoveries are detailed in “Cultivating Resilience,” a
Feb. 2011 report outlining the state's food strengths and weaknesses.

For example, while only 0.04 percent of all Iowa farmland grows fruits and
vegetables, 85 percent of the nearly $9 billion spent annually on food in
Iowa leaves the state. (Links to “Cultivating Resilience” and Daryll Ray's
“Policy Pennings” are posted at www.farmandfoodfile.com.)

Facts like that suggest there might be a better future feeding America
rather than feeding the world. Right now, we're doing neither.

Alan Guebert's Farm File appears each week in Business Monday. Contact him
at agcomm at farmandfoodfile.com or Alan Guebert, 21673 Lago Drive, Delavan,
IL 61734. His website is www.farmandfoodfile.com. Discuss this article!


posted by:

Brent McMillan, Steward of Woodhaven
Avilla, IN USA

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