Archive for agricultural policy

Wisdom From Afar

Food should be local but good ideas should flow freely.

Here is a reprint from Adbusters (Canada) article on an Indian (as in the subcontinent) blog.

It is certainly true that if we paid the true cost of food, a hamburger would be about $8 at McDonalds and a pound of broccoli would cost, well pretty much what it does now, if you buy it local.

Have fun folks, I have to head down to the farmers market to get some supplies.

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Food or Fuel?

Talking with an organic farmer can sometimes be an alarming thing, as they sometimes think about things in a way the rest of us don’t.   We were talking about the misguided agricultural policy in this country that subsidizes corn production (resulting in cheap sugar and meat) but not, say broccoli or tomatoes.  And then he dropped a little bomb.

“Some people say that corn production for ethanol might double food prices in the next couple of years.”  GULP!

Now, I did not find an article that said that prices would double, but there is a clear relationship between ethanol and overall food prices.

Over 20% of the current corn crop is already used for ethanol production, and the high cost of fossil fuels making ethanol more attractive.  So, 20% of the corn crop is lost, and next year more acreage will be planted in corn (perhaps to be burned as ethanol) removing land from growing other food crops, like perhaps tomatoes and broccoli.  Which is about what this article says.

What is worse is that even the most conservative estimates indicate that converting ethanol into fuel is not very efficient, only yielding about 25% more energy than is put in — mostly in the form of fossil fuels.  Using soybeans, on the other hand to make bio-diesel results in 93% return on the energy investment. Other researchers seem to feel that ethanol results in a net energy loss.

Whether it is a loss or only a slight gain, it appears that we may have to start asking ourselves if ethanol (and the car culture that drives its demand) are truly worth in the face of higher, perhaps much higher food prices.

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Wisconsin Food System Partnership

Being new to the blogosphere I was worried whether or not I had picked an appropriate name for this little effort, but fortunately my fears were soon allayed.

Brilliant me started doing google searches after I had picked the name and registered with WordPress, but the first result when I searched “Wisconsin Food Web” was quite heartening.

The Wisconsin Food System Partnership is a cooperative program among many branches of the UW system that, in the words of their website:

…brings people from the community and the university together in partnerships to build a more food-secure future for all.

The program provides small grants and other support to community-university partners for a wide range of teaching, research, service, and action projects.

Hmmm…maybe I should ask them for a grant for this little project.  I would say that we are definitely walking on the same side of the street.  Here is part of their vision statement from their website:

The Wisconsin Food System Partnership seeks a more food-secure world in 2020 — a world with less poverty and a plentiful food supply that is varied, enjoyable, safe, and healthy.

Food will be produced and distributed in profitable, equitable, and environmentally sound ways that:
  • invigorate and regenerate the earth and its people;
  • equitably address local, regional, and global needs;
  • are consistent with community resources and objectives; and
  • take advantage of the most useful information and technology.

If I was smart and articulate it is just the sort of thing I would say that I was hoping to accomplish with my little electronic scribblings.  So, you can take that as somewhat of a vision statement for this blog as well.

And finally, the site even says what I was trying to get across on the “About” page and the first post here:

The food system involves people, the environment, and agriculture. It includes the following linked set of activities and organizations:

  • agriculture and agribusiness;
  • natural resources and the environment;
  • rural and urban community development;
  • health and nutrition;
  • biology and biotechnology;
  • science education;
  • international development; and
  • public policy.

I do see a lot of very nice words there, and I hope that as time goes on I can highlight more in the way of actions — people doing things to achieve the goals laid out.

Stay tuned.

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Welcome to the Wisconsin Foodweb!

Food is, of course, central to everything thing we do, we literally cannot live without it.  So food can also be the central touchstone to many things which are important about our modern world: local culture, land usage, water usage, energy use and policy and governmental policy.  That is not to even mention the various health aspects of growing and consuming food.

Food choice is vitally important to the local economy, the environment and our own bodies.

So, gather round the table as we journey into and discuss the various issues — and delights — surrounding that most common element in our daily lives, food.

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