Friday, July 23, 2010

Room for All the Food on the Table

It seems lately that we are constantly bombarded with the message to buy our food local, buy organic, unhealthy food should be taxed and that modern agriculture is somehow the enemy. I truly believe most of this is a product of agriculture's success. How is that? Well, most of us don't have to worry about having enough food. In short, the fact that our bellies are full make it easier for us to fall prey to sensationalized media reports and propaganda provided by anti-agriculture groups.

Let me also say that I am totally in favor of the local food movement. I think it is great that more people are aware of where food comes from and the hard working men and women who grow it. Our ranch has began marketing our beef directly to consumers and it has been a very rewarding experience.

However, I think locally raised foods provide a better product but not necessarily a healthier one. The vegetables and meat you can purchase in your local grocery store are every bit as healthy as those in the farmers market. My hope is that (at least in our case) I am providing a higher quality product. Along with that higher quality comes a higher price tag. That is where I often have a disagreement with the hardcore local foodies.

Many in this great nation struggle each day to provide the basics, including food. They rely on the lower prices afforded to them because of the productivity of all of our farms and ranches. While the quality in terms of taste of the food may be a little less than the produce in farmer's markets, the nutrition is just the same. They simply cannot afford to pay the premiums those of us directly marketing our produce need to charge. We need both large agriculture and producers like myself to provide a product acceptable to all consumers.

I have also seen an article in the past week saying that researchers have found no difference in the safety of organic and non-organic produce. Again I am fully behind anyone who chooses to eat organic produce and pay the premium needed to produce it. It is a choice that some cannot afford and the science is just not there to say that organic is healthier or safer than conventionally produced food.

Finally, more and more politicians want to pay for their spending problem by taxing "unhealthy" foods. First, I think it only masks the problem of politicians spending money they don't have. Second, how we eat is a personal choice and if you choose to eat unhealthy foods and risk your health, then so be it. I don't think you are making a very good choice, but I don't think parachuting is a good choice either and I don't think it should be taxed. Teach people how to prepare fresh foods and rely less on pre-packaged and most of the nutrition problem will solve itself.

The bottom line is that we are incredibly blessed to live in a nation where we have such an abundant food supply that we can cast a critical eye toward it. Many people in this world are only worried about how to get their next meal. However, those of us who are fortunate enough to make a comfortable living should not impose our own views on those who have fewer choices. There is enough room in the food market for the conventional, local foodies and the organic to peacefully co-exist. Well, as long as we aren't taxed to death.