Time Is Ripe for Urban Agriculture
By Neal Peirce
The Seattle Times
Monday 23 May 2005
Is America ready for a metropolitan agriculture policy? Is the time ripe to take some of the billions in subsidies now flowing to big commodity-crop operators and focus instead on sustainable farm production in and around the citistate regions where 80 percent of us live?
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Democrat--Oregon, and the man who founded Congress' Livability Caucus, argues that with half of federal farm subsidies currently "flowing to six states to produce 13 commodities that in the main we don't need, like corn, wheat, cotton, and rice," there's a dramatically superior alternative.
We should, says Blumenauer, "use that money to build sustainable agriculture, create a farmer's market in every community, help farmers protect our land and water, preserve our viewsheds, foster land banks and control erosion."
Historically, he argues, our metropolitan regions weren't just centers of commerce but areas of fertile fields, often in lush river valleys. Even today, they have some of America's best land for sustainable agriculture. "With small diversions from the agriculture bill," argues Blumenauer, "we could provide grants for communities to develop year-round farmers' markets" and help local producers provide fresh vegetables and fruits, high-quality cheeses, honeys, nuts and more.
It's not hard to dismiss Blumenauer's idea. Small-scale agriculture has been losing out to big (and increasingly subsidized) farm operations for decades. This winter, the Bush administration quickly retreated from its proposal to significantly trim payouts to the mega-producers.
As for our food-raising-and-distribution system, the story is familiar: Big agribusiness processes commodities often high in sugar and fat, raises poultry, beef and pork in factory-like facilities, ships the shrink-wrapped products up to thousands of miles to supermarkets, and relies heavily on flashy packaging and advertising. How could anyone even loosen that hammerlock?
A bunch of reasons, it turns out --
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-- and to see those reasons, follow the link above.