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Jim Goodman's Posts

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Obama's broken promises, disappointing and dangerous to farmers, consumers

"And it means ensuring that the policies being shaped at the Departments of Agriculture and Interior are designed to serve not big agribusiness or Washington influence peddlers, but the family farmers and the American People." President-elect Barack Obama, December 17 2008, Chicago, Illinois. The message was one of hope, the words of a newly elected President echoing the Populism of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the promise of John F. Kennedy. It stopped there, the delivery of the promise fell short. We have gotten a New Deal, albeit one that is more protective of those who caused the economic and agricultural …

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Corporate agribusiness divides farmers

Why is conventional agriculture so wound up? Are they afraid of organic agriculture? What's all the fuss about? After all, a recent study by the Lieberman Research Group showed that organic food sales account for only 3.5 percent of all food product sales in the U.S. A September 2009 Prairie Farmer article , "Here is what's not sustainable," leads me to believe that the author, a spokesperson for conventional agriculture, dislikes and even fears organic farming and its supporters. The author admits to feeling self-satisfaction in knowing that organic farmers are suffering in a falling economy, I doubt many people …

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Why are (some) farmers afraid of Michael Pollan?

Author Michael Pollan is no stranger to controversy. He has broadened the discussion of what we eat, where and how it is grown, big vs. small, organic farming vs. conventional. When he speaks some in the audience will love him, some will not. Advocates of large scale agriculture see Pollan as the enemy, they believe he stands against everything they see as the future of agriculture. Pollan however is not an absolutist, his basic premise is that people need to think more about their food; where it was grown, how it was grown, was the farmer paid fairly, is it …

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Obama needs to take a stand on trade

When President Obama attends the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) meeting (or the more innocuous sounding, North American Leaders Summit) in Guadalajara he has the opportunity to keep some campaign promises. The SPP has been referred to as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on steroids. For good reason. As a candidate Obama was a strong opponent of NAFTA. During a primary debate in Cleveland Obama said : "I will make sure that we renegotiate... I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage...". He noted that NAFTA had outsourced millions of jobs, had weak …

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Why are milk prices plummeting?

Dairy farmers are in deep trouble. Milk prices have fallen by half since last year, dropping to a 30-year low. Consumption has fallen in light of the slowing world economy and now there is a huge milk surplus, or so the “experts” tell us. It's a nice theory: surplus equals low prices. Easy to explain and easily accepted by farmers. Farmers want an explanation, they listen to the dairy ”experts." They drink the Kool-Aid. Milk prices, like the rest of the world economy, crashed because of a globalized, unregulated free market system, not because of surplus product. According to New …

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Think Before You Eat, Agriculture and the Environment

Farmers claim to be stewards of the environment, some would say it's best friend; others, its worst enemy. The truth is we can be both. Humans have never left a small footprint, we have always tried to shape the environment to suit our needs. Initially farming had one purpose, food; farming provided a more stable diet than the hunter-gatherer existence. As we became more "civilized" our effect on the land became more pronounced and more devastating. We thought the oceans were too vast, the soil too deep and the forests so thick that we could never harm them and, of …

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USDA sees a food problem, but not the solution

Albert Einstein once said, "The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them." The same can be said of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's newfound commitment to "get Americans to eat more healthful foods while also boosting crop production to feed a growing world population." As he notes, "These two goals have often been at odds." Since the end of World War II, every USDA Secretary has embraced boosting crop production to feed a growing world population. Unfortunately, in every administration, that has meant the production of more corn and …

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What happened to the big win for progressives, the environment, and organic food?

Who found it more difficult to get excited about an Obama presidency, the Democratic Leadership Council or the progressive wing of the Democratic party? The DLC folks are riding high, calling themselves "The New Team." The progressives came away empty-handed. Progressives assumed change would extend to President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet, but we never expected the change to be a reflection of the Clinton administration or, worse yet, the Bush administration. We thought change would mean, well, something different. New people, ideas, economic reforms, energy policies, a withdrawal from Iraq, and a new face to the world. The political junkies say …

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Studies show mono-cultures, GMOs, and globalization are problems, not solutions

With the arrival of 2009, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes nearly a billion people a day go hungry worldwide. While India supplies Switzerland with 80 percent of its wheat, 350 million Indians are food-insecure. Rice prices have nearly tripled since early 2007 because, according to the International Rice Research Institute, rice-growing land is being lost to industrialization, urbanization, and shifts to grain crops for animal feed. Yet, according to FAO statistics, world food supplies have kept pace with population growth. There is enough food to adequately feed everyone. Clearly, root causes of the food crisis lie …

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Food should be controlled by farmers, not corporations

Food is an important part of most Holiday celebrations, not just because we need food to live, but food connects us to our culture, our past, and whether we know it or not, our future. Food Is Different: Why the WTO Should Get Out of Agriculture is a great book by Peter Rosset -- one that everyone who cares about food should read. The book is dedicated to Lee Kyung Hae, the Korean farmer who took his life in protest against the World Trade Organization on September 16, 2003, at the WTO protest march in Cancun Mexico. I was there. …

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