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To The Point

by Caren Cowan

Why Don't Foodies Like Agriculture?

As home cooking, gourmet dinners and cooking shows come back into vogue; one might expect that food growers — agriculture — would be a pretty popular community. The mere fact that American agriculture feeds and clothes our nation and some of the rest of the world should be grounds for a cozy relationship with anyone and everyone who eats. But we well know that we missed that boat sometime ago.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop these “foodies” from trying to reframe the conversation on food production around their personal biases and from claiming that they represent agriculture as a whole. In New Mexico a statewide Food & Ag Policy Council was established several years ago. There was appropriate concern from those who work in the field(s) of agriculture everyday and have for generations. However, because we were asked to participate, we did the polite thing and went to the table with the group…for all the good it did.

It wasn’t long before a shiny brochure was produced and distributed to state and federal elected officials hammering traditional/conventional agricultural practices in favor of small local operations. Hysteria ensued and the brochure disappeared, but not before the damage was done.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with small, local operations. There is a desire, need and place for them in our nation’s food system. But it is sheer fantasy to believe that millions and billions can be fed totally with small local operations. When this country was fed by small local operations, the population was much smaller and there was little career choice. It was families who tended to their own gardens and livestock to feed themselves. If they had a little extra they were able to barter that for things others had produced.

Today even growing a garden is out of reach for many. They don’t have the space, the time or the money that it takes to make food grow. Additionally, it is much easier and cheaper to go the grocery store and pick up our needs and wants.

The cost of food is a factor that many don’t consider. This nation has had a cheap food policy for generations. Americans pay about 11 percent of their disposable income for their food, so there is little incentive to grow their own food. Thus there is little incentive to even understand where their food comes from. The number of people who do want to know more about their food and its source is growing but with that desire comes responsibility. It is pretty easy to sit in an apartment or a suburb of any major city in the United States and around the world and make demands and criticize conventional production practices.

We have found first-hand that when you take people to ground on ranches, dairies, farms, auction markets and all the other places that are part of the food system in New Mexico, they walk away with a completely different perspective of their food and the people who grow it. But it is difficult to create that experience for everyone.

Over the years the Food & Ag Policy Council idea has grown to local communities. While agriculture has attempted to stay abreast of their actions and inform them about the realities on the ground, we were stunned a few weeks ago when it was reported at the state meeting that the Santa Fe Food & Ag Policy group plan on taking a resolution to the City of Santa Fe in support of the recently proposed dietary guidelines that advise against eating meat! As a reminder, these guidelines are not based on nutritional science but rather on the misguided perception that the growing of meat is bad for the planet.

If there is a Food & Ag Policy group in your community, it might be a good idea to pay attention.

Saving Us

As more attention comes to agriculture, good or bad, there is growing concern about the future of the industry in our state. There are many who want to be sure that agriculture in New Mexico survives in the future, especially when one considers the age of the folks working the land.

While we greatly appreciate that concern and any offers of assistance for planning into the future, we would welcome folks coming to meet us and learn who we are before embarking on plans for us.

Along those lines…

Wall Street was stunned with the first quarter earnings report from McDonalds. It was down 30 percent from the same period a year ago. The company’s leadership says their business model won’t change, but they are adding menu items designed to bring their income back up.

Given that McDonald’s has been at the forefront of pandering to animal rightist and environmental groups, this earnings report is even more interesting. Does the drop in sales indicate that people are opting out in droves because of a perceived “unhealthy” menu? Does it mean that even though the company is on the leading edge of demanding rigorous production standards that those demanding the standards aren’t eating there (and probably never did) anyway? Does it mean that they are paying for so much for products that meet their standards that it is affecting their bottom line? (Fat chance.) Does it simply mean that the economy is changing and people don’t have the money to eat out? Or that people have more money and are eating more sit down meals and less drive-thrus? It really is anybody’s guess. All McDonald’s needed to do to get my business is put mayonnaise on my cheese burgers instead of their special secret sauce.

Just an interesting NGO

In a recent speech by former President Bill Clinton, he made some remarks that almost forced me to pull off the road. In speaking about the group that is now terrorizing the world and brutally murdering people, he noted that ISIS was “an interesting NGO.” NGO stands for non-governmental organization.

At www.ngo.org they are defined as “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.”

The United Nations Rule of Law says “A non-governmental organization (NGO, also often referred to as ‘civil society organization’ or CSO) is a not-for-profit group, principally independent from government, which is organized on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good. Task-oriented and made up of people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of services and humanitarian functions, bring public concerns to governments, monitor policy and programme implementation, and encourage participation of civil society stakeholders at the community level. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights.”

Yet another definition is “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is an organization that is neither a part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business. Usually set up by ordinary citizens, NGOs may be funded by governments, foundations, businesses, or private persons.”

All of these definitions seem pretty benign, especially compared to ISIS. Falling into the NGA category are the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, World Wildlife Fund, EarthFirst, Greenpeace, National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, the Rainforest Action Network, Forest Stewardship Council, the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), The Wildlands Project and numerous others. One would guess that the WildEarth Guardians (WEG) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) also consider themselves NGOs.

After looking at this list it is clear that NGOs are not benign. And listening to Mr. Clinton’s comments on ISIS and their actions I can certainly draw some parallels. Not quoting directly, he went on to say ISIS was a group that didn’t observe governments or boundaries, and they could be bought. That does sound like some of the groups listed.

The NGO list covers folks who don’t seem to care about law — HSUS promoting the video of animal cruelty without promptly reporting such acts to authorities. First if these horrible things are happening, why wouldn’t the person behind the camera do something to stop it? The way they are handled certainly leaves open speculation that they are staged.

The Wildlands Project and others are already attempting to supersede governments and boundaries with monikers like the Sky Island that takes in the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Sonora and Chihuahua.

We know that the WEG and CBD can be bought. The federal government does it constantly when they pay them off in lawsuits. Federal land management agencies buy them off every day by taking actions they hope with prevent lawsuits.

All in all, I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked. Mr. Clinton appears to be right.