Craig Sams interview
TH: What do you think is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of organic agriculture and organic food exploding into mainstream eating habits?
CS: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The European Union has finally come round to an agricultural subsidy system that rewards farmers for being good custodians of the countryside by paying them for environmental benefits rather than for overproduction. The USDA still rewards farmers for production, with no measure of their environmental benefits. There is a waiting list to join their conservation program but there is no limit on the amounts payable to farmers who are prepared to exhaust the last drop of fertility from the soil. This corrupt system leads to madness such as bio-diesel, ethanol gasoline and corn syrup sweeteners that would never see the light of day if farmers operated in a real market system. Ever since farming was nationalized in the 1940s the government has fixed food prices. This has impoverished America’s farmers and those in the rest of the world have to live with unrealistically low food prices set on the Chicago Board of Trade and based on US subsidies that are expressly designed to keep down the price of food for people and feed for the pigs, chickens and beef that people consume too much of anyway. Last year Canada imposed a $1.65 per bushel import tax on US-grown corn to compensate for the fact that their unsubsidized farmers have a higher cost of growing corn. The Mexicans and the rest of the world should do the same; otherwise it will be pork-barrel politics as usual. It’s no surprise that the USDA is still trying to dilute organic standards; they have no interest in creating a world where the price of food represents its real cost of production and where people respect this and are prepared to pay for good food cleanly produced in a sustainable way.