Wednesday, May 12, 2010

McCain on Farmer's Markets (read this one)


Recently John McCain and two other Republican Senators sent a letter to Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, condemning Vilsack's "Know Your Farmer Know Your Food" program that was introduced last fall. The program aims to "Connect Consumers with Local Producers to Create New Economic Opportunities for Communities," by aiding farmers with the marketing and proliferation of their products (more can be read here). The Senators claimed the project was directed at “'small and organic producers' whose customers generally consist of 'affluent patrons of urban farmers markets.'”

As of now, that is largely true. Organic, sustainable food isn't very accessible to the lower and much of the middle class. The costs of production, and subsequently the final product are much inflated compared with those of big agribusiness which supplies the food to the megamarts. Yet this is a fundamental problem in the nature of the current agricultural system, a problem which the "Know Your Farmer Know Your Food" initiative aims to mitigate. It seems that McCain and his cronies have missed the point. As of now farmers markets are places for prosperous patrons, but such initiatives as the one described aim to increase accessibility to, and with federal funding, lower the price of sustainable farmed food. This program isn't for the elite--the elite already have access to farmed food--its for the less affluent who don't have access to or can't afford such food.

With his letter, McCain is highlighting a pro-business position that demonstrates support for big agribusiness companies. Now remember, that he originally stated that he didn't support the program because it catered to the wealthy (which I don't believe it does), yet his support of the big farmer's, companies like Tyson and ConAgra and Monsanto, has that exact effect for a few reasons. The first is the fact that supporting such companies carries the connotation of supporting the big businessman as opposed to the humble farmer. The second is the fact that these companies are notorious for exploiting the small farmers and the "little guys" that work for them. The profits in these companies go straight to the top with few stops in between (See Food Inc. Read anything by Michael Pollan, Fast Food Nation and more). Therefore McCain's preference caters more directly to "affluent patrons" than does the "Know Your Farmer Know Your Food" program.

CASE CLOSED

11 comments:

HorizontalStripes said...

I've been following you for some time now, and this seemed like a good place for my first comment.

*HIGH FIVE*

Keep up the good work - I enjoy reading your writing :)

Cali said...

Most of the farmer's markets in my area now accept food stamps. I'm pretty sure that's not meant for the affluent.

PlaysWithKnives said...

Well said.

Mandoline said...

You are absolutely right. They are appallingly shortsighted and oddly out of touch in the support of the big business food industry.

craigkite said...

Strangely, I find that I buy smaller quantities of an ingredient at the Farmers' Market because it is possible to buy less when it is not packaged. This translates to less waste of food, and often less waste of money as the higher cost for better quality means EVERYTHING gets consumed, when the unripe parts of the Agra-Corp package get ignored. I have two great cheese mongers that I love, but one does most of their products already packaged, and the one at the market cut the size off the large hunk. I spend about the same at both places, but leave with more variety when buying Open Stock.
Knowing your food providers will always give you a better bang for our buck! Maybe buck and a half...
McCain should slow down on the rubber-chicken circuit and try some real cuisine.

Tags said...

How'd you get him to look like Popeye? At least now I know why he's attacking farmer's markets - to protect the canned spinach industry.

Tags said...

The food companies' business model is "overcharge them for crap and if they complain, call them elitists."

Ashley said...

Thank you! I make less than $25,000 a year (which, believe me, is not a lot when you pay for rent and all the other bills in this life) and I can still afford to go to the farmer's market every now and again. The vegetables especially don't cost much at all. It's the other stuff, like the gourmet pasta, that hits my wallet! ;)

Jumper said...

Less of the crazy wasteful packaging mania at the farmers' markets, too.

Paul Heinemann said...

Try throwing a fried egg on top. I got into it in Spain and once you have take a bite and that creamy yoke bursts all over your burger, your taste buds will dance.

Piera said...

Ha, I love Paul Heinemann's out of place comment, surely meant for your burger post. It's so off the topic, it takes a bit of the tension out of the farm market debate, for the moment at least. That said, Fatburger offers fried egg on their sandwiches, so it's done in the U.S. as well. Probably much yummier in Spain though, no?