Local Food is Not Elitist. It’s American

I’m not a jingoist, but I’d prefer that more of my food came from America. It’d be even better, really, if most of it came from within a few hundred miles of where we live. We’d be more secure and better served, and our land would be better used. And I’d feel prouder, as if we had a food culture rather than a food fetish.

The Farm Bill [PDF], which is currently under negotiation for renewal — and is dangerously close to being pushed through without real debate — needs to address this issue head-on. But by subsidizing commodities, the existing bill (and food policy in general), pushes things in precisely the opposite direction. The vast majority of our farmland grows corn (we’re the world’s largest producer), soy and wheat, and these, along with meat and dairy, make us net exporters of foodstuffs.

Incredibly, however, we are net importers of fruits and vegetables, foods that our land is capable of growing in abundance and once did. Most of our imports are from Mexico, Chile and Canada, but fresh fruits and especially vegetables are shipped here from all over the world, with significant quantities coming from as far away as India, China and Thailand. And those imports are growing.

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Posted in Farming, Food Politics


  1. Karl Haro von Mogel said...

    I’m really disappointed that Mark Bittman, instead of addressing the concerns of people who disagree with some of the points in his column, instead say fit to label them as corporate shills by calling their comments "Ads" on twitter. He said:"Could use help countering negative "ads" in comments section of my local foods piece, folks: nyti.ms/upY2uG"How we handle people we disagree with is more important than how we handle people we agree with. Maybe instead of assuming that people who hold differing opinions are bought-and-paid-for advertisements, Mark Bittman could try appreciating the limits of his arguments, and the good points that others bring up. The irony of all this is that while calling defending local food against charges of elitism, he is acting as an elitist.

  2. adinalav said...

    How is it elitist?

  3. Peter Mayer said...

    Karl, what is important to understand is that Mr. Bittman is standing up for a cause that is given far from equal time in the debate. His position is rightfully aggressive, because of the aggression shown by the Big Food Industry and their lobbyists. The fact that the laws are written and passed by the same folk who cater to ConAgra and their ilk means that columnists have to speak out for the dangers that these laws create…unless you like e.coli in your diet.

  4. Lance Albert Lim said...

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  5. Karl Haro von Mogel said...

    Re: adinalev,Bittman is acting as an elitist (a term I seldom use BTW) because he is refusing to acknowledge and engage people in their disagreement, and instead trying to crowd them out by sending others to attack them.Re: Peter Mayer,I couldn’t agree more with you – he probably feels he is forced to act that way because he feels outnumbered. He feels that people who have collectively more influence than he are crowding him out. But in responding in this fashion he is suggesting that he is no better than the people who is (or thinks he is) fighting. While he may be standing up for a cause that doesn’t get the kind of attention it may deserve, that doesn’t make it right. The ends do not justify the means.

  6. Peter Mayer said...

    Bittman’s cause is one I believe in. I think it is right to promote locally-grown, more sustainable food as opposed to turning America’s farmland into one big corporate cornfield. How does that serve the planet in the long run? I also think Bittman’s means (columns) justify his ends far more than corporate argiculture’s lobbyists justify their clients’ profits.

  7. mlorson said...

    Interesting POV from Mr. Bittman, and I agree with the emotion behind it, but I ask him and his readers to consider a few of the drivers behind this situation, many of which have little to do with farm subsidies or corporate farming – – The food media and the resulting culinary sophisication of many Americans has resulted in significantly increased year-round demand for fruits and vegetables, which neccessitates imports. – Production of fresh produce is labor intensive, which means that second- and third-world countries can grow, harvest and ship it around the world for less than we can grow it and sell it in our backyards. Tougher immigration laws have decimated migrant worker crews, making it harder and harder for U.S. produce producers to survive, let alone thrive.- Subsidized grains are not all bad -it meanst that there is at least one category of foodstuff that is plentiful and cheap, which literally means the difference between surviving and starvation for almost 20% of American children.Blogs are topical and shallow by nature, but as a recognized food advocate, Mr. Bittman is expected to look at all the issues surrounding what’s right and wrong about American and world food production. Solutions are not easy, narrow or easy to smash into a blog entry.

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