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Al Krebs, “The Corporate Reapers:” What the Food Movement Doesn’t Know About Food Policy


The late Al Krebs monumental book, The Corporate Reapers:  The Book of Agribusiness remains a giant in the field of food policy, albeit a hidden giant, full of information that remains missing in the food movement of our day.  No one called for that food movement more passionately over more than three decades than Krebs.  No major work has been more overlooked by the food movement than his.  Such is the irony of our place today within the movements of food and farming.  Such must have been his grief as he lay dying and surely saw the rise of the new myths, the new major paradigm of inadvertently pro agribusiness food policy work.


Last night I had my first viewing of the new food movement documentary, Food Inc.  I’m hosting a house party to view it on the occasion of the DVD release tomorrow night.  The film prominently features such food movement giants as Michael Pollen and Eric Schlosser.  


I had been promised that this film would finally overcome the incorrigible fallacies of other recent food movement films and books, their failure to correctly explain the largest issues in the farm bill, the commodity title issues of price floors and supply management, price ceilings and grain reserves (we have none).  


These are the lead issues in the family farm movement, the lead farm bill issues affecting world agricuture and especially LDC poverty in the farm bill.  In terms of economic impact worldwide, they are the largest issues in the farm bill, much larger than the nutrition title.  Historically they’ve had a devastating multi trillion dollar impact on world agriculture and food.


Food movement books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Fast Food Nation, Food Fight, The Food Revolution, Diet for a Dead Planet, and many others all fail to even provide factually accurate information about these issues, rooted as they are in a false paradigm that explains it all in simple, clear, false ways.  I can easily claim that the sum total of the factually accurate information about these Commodity Title issues that could be collected from a dozen of these books, (when you can find accurate information) would fill only a couple of pages in Al Krebs book.  (The farm bill is not even indexed in Michael Pollan’s books, the first two on the list, and may not even be mentioned in his second book on food).


Explaining how commodity title issues lie at the root of virtually every other significant food and farming issue is beyond the scope of this blog, though I may sum it up on one page in the future.  I’ve addressed the main issues repeatedly in my blog.  At the very least, from a food movement perspective, these unknowns (and falsely knowns) are the largest specific U.S. farm bill rooted causes and solutions related to the high fructose corn syrup, transfat and CAFO mega industrial complexes, as well as the interrelated world farm and food crises seriously threatening a billion people world wide.


Krebs, who should have been honored as the founding father of the food movement, has been largely forgotten, and his lessons have been lost.  His book, originally subtitled, "From Seedling to Supermarket," remains our most comprehensive statement of what has been left out of Food Inc., of what Michael Pollan fails to give us what is missing across the board in the food movement.  (See two of my critiques of Michael Pollan in comment sections here:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/10/10-13 and here: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/11/27-5) 


In conclusion, the food movement has some homework to do.  Krebs book, however, has full sized pages, twice as big as most books.  His 500 pages may be equivalent to 1000 pages or more.  At the same time, it might just be the kind of labor pains needed to rebirth the food movement, to tear down it’s comfortable false paradigm, and realign it’s advocates on a deeper basis, along side of family farmers and peasants world wide.


For More Information:

 

Al Krebs, "Honest Talk About Farm Policy:  Stop Calling Them ‘Farm Subsidies;’ It’s Corporate Welfare!"Counterpunch, September 16, 2003 , http://www.counterpunch.org/krebs09162003.html.

 

A. V. Krebs, The Corporate Reapers:  The Book of Agribusiness, Washington DC, Essential Books, 1992.  http://www.thecalamityhowler.com/furrows/reapers.html


Al Krebs web site is still available, featuring an abundance of his writing since the publication of The Corporate Reapers.  Go to;  http://www.thecalamityhowler.com/  


Al Krebs worked for Jim Hightower’s Agribusiness Accountability Project, contributing to books such as:


Eat Your Heart Out:  How Food Profiteers Victimize the Consumer, Jim Hightower, 1974.  A short book, also must reading for anyone serious about understanding food movement issues in a family farm and historical context.


The Great American Grain Robbery and other stories, Martha McNeil Hamilton, 1972, Agribusiness Accountability Project. 


Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times:  A Report of the Agribusiness Accountability Project on the Failure of America’s Land Grant College Complex, Jim Hightower, 1973.


Contribute to the posthumous publication of Al Krebs new book on the Farm Bill through the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, iat[email protected]  See tributes to Krebs at:  http://iatp.typepad.com/thinkforward/2007/10/al-krebs—figh.html; http://www.agobservatory.org/headlines.cfm?refid=100866.

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