Long time family farm activists are thankful for the rise of a powerful food movement on the consumer side of food and farm issues. Let there be no mistake about that.
Even after the farm bill was passed, hundreds of thousands of food activists were chomping at the bit for further action, as seen in work for a food friendly Secretary of Agriculture, and a White House Farmer. Among those listed as favorable candidates for Secretary of Agriculture were long time farm justice advocates like Mark Ritchie, formerly of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a groundbreaking group on connections between the farm bill and the world farm crisis/food crisis.
This is wonderful. Family farm activists have dreamed of such support for our fight for farm and food justice for decades. Surely together we can turn around the frightening farm and food trends we see in the U.S. and worldwide.
There are some glitches to be sure, in bringing together a movement that can win on our most important issues. The U.S. Farm Bill (or "food bill," as it has periodically been called,) can be quite mystifying and intimidating. Some of the mainstream media myths are so pervasive that even well meaning movement folks inadvertently spread them. In fact, even people who know better sometimes revert to a kind of short hand of speaking in the language of the myths as a shorthand way of making a general point.
The prime example of this is the topic of farm subsidies. It’s easy to inadvertently advocate on the wrong side of the farm subsidy issue, the side of harsh megaagribusiness injustice and devastation, so effectively have we been misled (and increasingly so) for decades.
This myth divided us during work on the 2007-8 farm bill. Most of the food movement got sucked into the myth, and never had the slightest inclination that they had gotten taken. This remains a risk as we prepare for the next farm bill. The "Farm Bill 101 Primer" and "Food Crisis 101 Primer" at my blog (both still being developed) are designed to provide correctives to our recent movement failure, our failure to win a just Commodity Title," in the 2008 Farm Bill.
As it turns out, Mark Ritchie’s excellent excellent 1987 farm bill primer, "Crisis by Design: A Brief Review of U.S. Farm Policy" is on my list, providing the missing historical context behind the accelerating farm and food crises of today.
Let us now readjust our movement. Let us reeducate ourselves prior to the next farm bill round. Finally, let us do it quickly. After all, the 1996 farm bill, "Freedom to Farm," failed, and was followed by 4 emergency farm bills before the next overall farm bill was developed and passed in 2002.
Facing and correcting a widely believed false farm bill paradigm, (where subsidies serve as a scapegoat for the lack of "Price Floors,") is far from easy. The food movement is full of very capable, very well educated people, however, and we can succeed together.
So, whatever impression I may give throughout this process, remember this: thank you food movement. Thank you for your many new and important contributions to our cause. We couldn’t have achieved anything close to that by ourselves. Welcome to our pathos. Welcome to our hope.