Food. the view from Route 8 

 

(Note: This gentleman from Kansas writes one of the most thought-provoking -- and true -- articles that you will likely read all year. Consider, please, the implications. Not getting involved in stopping this trend may well cost your children their freedom. How many would like their children ensconced in service-industry jobs, because all the better jobs have fled America?)

 

February 27, 2003

 

By Jim Suber

TheSube@aol.com

 

Is America's domestic agriculture, and therefore its food supply system, endangered? I think so.

I try to read and travel to other parts of the nation and visit with a variety of people inside and outside of agriculture.

In recent years it has grown increasingly apparent to me that as a nation we're relying more and more on foreign-grown food and cheap labor -- either working overseas or imported here into food processing plants. Immigrants and aliens are picking our fruits, cutting up our meats and waiting our tables.

Just as manufacturing is fleeing the United States, so is our food production.

This winter marked several tours arranged to South America for farmers who might consider relocating there to raise corn and soybeans.

Signs are frequent that Americans increasingly regard animal agriculture in the contiguous 48 states as an environmental hazard that other areas like Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina could pick up easily.

As I travel, I notice that Americans take for granted their food and their lands -- which are being developed or otherwise removed from production -- whether some want to believe it or not.

Wherever conflicts over water uses arise, agriculture eventually loses to domestic and industrial users, because of overwhelming pressure from non-farmers.

Five years ago, one hardly ever talked about a loss of our farm complex to foreign soils, but now it is quietly and fervently discussed in small groups at farm and ranch meetings.

Most Americans aren't paying attention, and when they do it's usually to express overwrought concern or outrage over an orchestrated incident like Starlink corn or pesticide residues.

Outside of parts of the prairie -- and most of the High Plains -- reside the great majority of now-urban and now-suburban Americans.

Few of them even realize today that their 85-year-old grandparents often grew up in towns and cities -- gathering eggs and milking cows and hoeing gardens.

Many of the city people of the 1930s know more about agriculture in some ways than many of the small town kids in the corn and wheat belts.

The shift from cheap domestic food to cheap foreign imports has begun. Many say, no big deal.

We import most of our oil, they say, with only rare hiccups of price disruptions.

But food is not oil.

And know-how and machinery and culture are not inexpensive to replace once lost.

When we lose our production, then the worrywarts will have more credibility about food safety standards, pesticide residues, cheap labor exploitation, quality, environmental degradation in poorer countries ... you name the issue and you can relocate it to the new and future sources of our food.

We've lost our energy independence; we're rapidly losing our manufacturing to China; we're showing signs of being ready to let slip our food supplies into the hands of others.

If you don't believe this, just obtain the food export-import figures and see how the imports have grown and grown over the last 20 years -- to equal nearly our exports.

Used to be, politicians baited farmers' hopes by promising greater exports.

It seems a shame to me, especially as I watch a great throng of city-bred youngsters growing up in a service economy where wave after wave of immigrants are doing the dirty and menial jobs.

At a midlevel hotel in central Florida recently, I was shocked to see males from Bosnia cleaning the rooms and making up the beds.

They were done so well and tight that my roommate accused me of short-sheeting him.

Sleep well. Tomorrow could be taxing.