What if the U.S. government had a plan for both our farm worker shortage, and massive financial handouts for producing – or not producing in some cases – millions of acres for bio-fuels and animal feed? The U.S. has spent $277.3 billion in subsidies from 1995-2011 of that, $172.3 billion has been for commodity crops – corn, soy, etc. What if some of that subsidy money was dedicated to fixing this seemingly endless cycle of land degradation and handouts?
While our bureaucrats have been funneling money to encourage farmers to grow anything but food for our growing population, we have millions of Americans living in a chronic state of food insecurity – Ag Secretary Vilsack has addressed this via the “StrikeForce” initiative. Add to this a labor shortage in the Agriculture world, along with our current debacle regarding immigration reform, and what we have is a highly inefficient system for producing the food and fiber our country needs.
The current situation has created the perfect storm for agricultural reformation. Why not move some of these subsidies to a more sustainable food-for-people system? This would not only encourage better land stewardship, but also create more jobs – and more small-business owners as a result. If a farmer is currently rotating crops between corn and soy, and say they have 1,000 acres in production; why not encourage that farmer to half the commodity production and begin growing a diversified vegetable operation? But how can we grow that much food – without the labor needed to promote an organic model – unless we rely on chemicals and GMO? One option, you now begin to hire back the labor we’ve lost due to the incompetence of our federal leaders to enact meaningful immigration reform. In this way, we can alleviate the current farm worker shortage and begin to reintegrate many of the folks that have been a contributing part of our country for decades. If the issue for some farmers to switch to Organic methods is lack of labor, the answer is right in front of us. The benefits to the soil and economy should be in our best interest, however, we need to change the way we run our Agricultural productivity to achieve the best outcome. This means immigration reform must be part of the conversation.
If we can slowly begin to change the philosophy around farming , the benefits to our physical and mental health, environment, and economy, will create a more robust business model to encourage future farmers. We must stop asking “how do we feed the world?” and begin asking ‘how do we feed our community?” Imagine more farmers occupying more land, while also creating more jobs, and you can see how this enormous conflict of how one feeds the world can be mitigated by first feeding our communities.